'Italian Flag' Salad

'Italian Flag' Salad

Almost as soon as he could hold a Richard Scarry book, my son would pore over the pages and pick out any with colorful flags. After I decorated numerous cakes and cookies with flag motifs (the Turkish crescent was a winner), my enthusiasm, if not his, began to, well, flag.

But one summer I looked at our garden flourishing with green beans, cucumbers, and red tomatoes. Ecco! An Italian flag salad. Good drizzled with a vinaigrette, it's even better with Buttermilk Dressing (see below). Except for slicing the vegetables, this is a salad even a young child can easily compose. And you don't have to dig up half the lawn — or even have a lawn — to introduce your kids to vegetable gardening (and eating). All you need is a sunny spot, some deep pots, and a few bags of soil.

Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
Ready In: 20 minutes
Yield: 6-8 servings as a side dish

Ingredients

    Green beans, cooked to crisp-tender and cooled
    Cucumbers, peeled and thinly sliced
    Small and large tomatoes, sliced
    Buttermilk Dressing

Directions

  1. On a large platter, arrange the vegetables in vertical rows — green beans on the left, cucumbers in the middle, and tomatoes on the right. For kids, the best part is drizzling the dressing over the "flag"; use a small cup with a spout to make it easier (or serve it on the side, if dipping is more their thing).
  2. If your kids aren't into salad proper (leaves torn apart and served on a plate, with dressing), try having them roll up lettuce leaves cigar-style and dip them into this flavorful dressing. Sometimes a little twist on the presentation can make all the difference.

Buttermilk Dressing
If your family doesn't like the taste of tarragon, try another gently flavored spring herb like fresh chives (but cut the amount to 1/4 cup)

Hands-On Time: 3 minutes
Ready In: 3 minutes
Yield: about 1 cup

Ingredients

    1/2 cup mayonnaise
    1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
    1 to 2 tablespoons snipped fresh dill
    3 tablespoons minced scallion (white and pale green parts only)
    1 small garlic clove, minced (optional)
    Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients. (Any leftover dressing can be refrigerated for a day or two.)

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