When it gets hot in Minnesota, you can’t miss it. First of all, it feels so darn good after all those months of hunching shoulders against the cold to feel a warm breeze.  Then it quickly becomes oppressive because our bodies hardly know what to do after the rapid temperature swing that has switched from cold to hot in just a week.

If you typically live in a climate-controlled environment, then eating choices might not seem so variable when the temps swing from cool to hot.  But if you don’t use air conditioning – whether by choice or by circumstance –  then days like this might mean something entirely different appeals to the palate than the usual supper fare.

I like main dish salads this time of year (disclosure: I like main dish salads most times of the year, with the exception of November–January) that deliver a good balance of nutrition with easy to digest proteins, light grains, and plenty of vegetables with a modest amount of healthy fats.

Tonight my plan is based on what I have in my refrigerator: super fresh locally-grown organic spinach from Uptown Farmers (my ultra-local custom “CSA”), regionally local Living Waters hydroponic vine-ripened tomatoes, Kalamata olives (from the Wedge…..via Greece!), and a local feta from Singing Hills Goat Dairy that I picked up at the Mill City Farmer’s Market.  From this, I’ll make a Spinach Greek Salad, serve it with a Quinoa Tabbouli plus a little Chickpea-Tomato Salad with Mint. The tabbouli will be just like a regular tabbouli, only it will be gluten-free and protein-rich by using quinoa instead of bulgur, the spinach salad will be just like a regular Greek salad except I’ll be using spinach because it is in season and so wonderful right now, and the chickpea salad is just a quick way to pull together a good plant-based protein with tomatoes and fresh herbs.  It is a good idea anytime to try and eat a greater proportion of plant-based meals: the protein in beans and lentils is easily digested and assimilated, as well as providing fiber and important vitamins while naturally aligning with an eco-conscious decision to tread more lightly on the planet.

Tonight, our supper will not be too heavy, but not too dainty either – perfect for a hot summer night.

Chickpea Tomato Salad with Mint

2 fat cloves garlic, peeled and pressed or chopped
4 small tomatoes, diced
large pinch sea salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I love Kritiko or Diamond Brand Greek olive oil from Bill’s Imported Foods)
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained (drained and rinsed, if canned)
2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped

Combine garlic, tomatoes, salt and olive oil together in a small bowl and let marinate for 10-15 minutes.  Add drained chickpeas and chopped mint, season to taste with additional salt, if necessary, and freshly ground pepper, and serve immediately.  Store leftovers in a glass container and eat within 3 days.

Serves 2