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August 05, 2015

Summer salad recipes and farmers market tips from Talula’s Aimee Olexy

Cooking Farmers Markets
Summer Salad Talula Handout Art /Talula's Garden

Olexy offers tips on successfully navigating area stalls bursting with peak-season tomatoes, corn, zucchini, peaches and more.

“Over the last 20 years, the change in Philly’s farmers markets has been insane,” says Aimee Olexy, owner of the dreamy, renowned Talula’s Garden and Talula’s Daily (along Washington Square Park) and Talula’s Table (in Kennett Square, Pa.). “Headhouse Market is so resplendent right now — it really is amazing.”

Here, Olexy offers tips on successfully navigating area stalls bursting with peak-season tomatoes, corn, zucchini, peaches and more. Plus, she shares two of her favorite salad recipes that make the most of the season’s bounty.

Have an action plan

“When I get to the market I want to buy everything, but the worst thing in the world is for food to go to waste.”

Talk to the growers

“Say you’re making a peach tart. If you spend a little time telling the farmer what you’re looking for, the peaches you select will be transformative.”

Don’t overlook cheese, eggs and meat

“Make sure to pair your produce with something of the same quality. While eggs and proteins may not be at [the] forefront of your mind, you can do almost all of your shopping at the market. I always add a nice cheese component or crème fraîche to my salads for protein and flavor.”

Buy lots of herbs

“This time of the year I’m really into herbs. I feel that they’re underutilized in home kitchens. You can put them in salads and steep them in vinegar. One of the most delicious things in the world is thinly shaved zucchini with a little bit of herb vinaigrette.”

Take frequent trips to the market

“It makes sense to hunker down in winter and make a few days worth of meals, but in summer, try to buy less more often. Walk to the market, carry the bags home — the hunt is as good as the outcome.”

Super-Simple Summer Tomato and Ripe Peach Salad

By Aimee Olexy

Summer salads fresh from farmers market shopping adventures are one of my absolute favorite things to look forward to each year. The possibilities are simply endless. The quality of the ingredients from the start is essential. A well-planned, concentrated dressing — like the buttermilk-herb dressing in this recipe — brings it all together and makes the flavors come alive.

You can also add a few slivers of jalapeños or hot peppers from your garden for spice and health benefits. Chilled shrimp, poached chicken or grilled steak are wonderful additions.


Buttermilk-herb dressing

½ cup buttermilk

½ cup crème fraîche

Zest of 1 lemon

1½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons chopped tarragon

1 tablespoon chopped chives

1 tablespoon lemon thyme (or regular thyme)

1 teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon sea salt

¼ teaspoon sugar


Day-old crusty bread, torn into bite-size pieces (for croutons)

Olive oil

4 pounds heirloom tomatoes

2 pounds peaches (assorted varieties)

Sea salt

Fresh black pepper

3 cups farmstand arugula


Make the buttermilk-herb dressing. In a bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Make the salad. Preheat the oven to 350°. Toss the bread in oil and toast in the oven for 10 minutes (it’s OK if it’s not fully dried out); set aside. Rinse, wipe dry and slice the tomatoes and peaches into bite-size pieces. Arrange the tomatoes and peaches on a platter and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.

In a large bowl, toss 1 cup of the fresh croutons and the arugula with ample dressing and tuck into the tomatoes and peaches on the platter. Enjoy!

Healthy Summer Crunch Salad

By Aimee Olexy

This salad is inexpensive and an amazing side dish for grilled kabobs or steak. It’s a cross between a fresh salad and a flavorful, moist slaw. The salad holds up for a day or two and is the perfect dish for a margarita party — with cantaloupe margaritas!



1 egg

1 cup olive oil

1/3 cup champagne vinegar

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon fresh black pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper


6 ears of unhusked corn

½ bunch cilantro

½ bunch basil

1 small head of fresh cabbage, thinly sliced and washed (2 quarts)

1 zucchini, sliced into ultra-thin discs

1 squash, sliced into ultra-thin discs

1 cup crumbled queso fresco or ricotta salata


Make the dressing. In a blender, blend the egg until light and gradually add the olive oil until it’s emulsified. Add the remaining ingredients and blend. Thin the dressing with a splash of water if needed; set aside.

Make the salad. Preheat oven to 400°. Roast the corn in the oven for 15 minutes; husk the corn and cut the kernels off the cob. Finely tear the cilantro and basil. In a bowl, add the warm corn, herbs and vegetables. Toss with the dressing until lightly coated. Add the cheese. Enjoy this hydrating salad!