August not only means that summer is coming to an end, but for some that school starts soon - which is good for some and bad for others.

It also means those 90-degree days will be behind us. And days are getting shorter, which some people don’t care for, but others who like sitting by a fire under the stars are anxiously awaiting longer nights.

The end of summer also brings about an abundance of fresh vegetables - squash, cucumbers and, of course, ears and ears of sweet corn. Dishes made with summer produce have lively colors and fresh flavors, and make the perfect side dish for grilled foods.

There are many recipes online for a corn and cucumber salad. Some called for jalapeno peppers, avocadoes, cilantro and soy sauce. Several said to add chicken or pasta to turn the salad into a main dish. Nothing seemed as easy as it should be.

Why not just toss some fresh vegetables together and top with a light dressing? It was time to start experimenting and see what would come together.

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The result was a fresh, colorful salad full of flavor that took all of about 10 minutes to put together. The best part was that all of the ingredients were in the garden or in the refrigerator. If you are a cilantro fan, the parsley in the recipe can be replaced with cilantro. In a pinch, dry herbs can be used, but the fresh herbs give the salad a kick that you will not get from dried herbs.

Summer squash and zucchini seem to multiply overnight once they start ripening. Squash can be baked, steamed, fried and grilled. But it doesn’t have to be cooked at all. Thinly sliced squash is ideal in salads.

The most time consuming part of this flavorful summer squash recipe is making the candied walnuts. But don’t leave this step out. The walnuts add crunch and just the right amount of sweetness to the dish.

August is a great time to enjoy the tremendous variety of locally grown summer produce. So forget about those plain green salads and expand your horizons by using summer’s bounty. Your salads will pop with flavor and you can feel good about eating these summer delights as they are full of vitamins and minerals.

Happy Eating!

Summer Sweet Corn & Cucumber Salad

  • 2 small cucumbers, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels - corn can be steamed, grilled or microwaved and then removed from the cob
  • 8 to 10 cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • ¼ red onion, diced
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh basil

For the dressing

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional - add if you like a bit of heat

Place all of the vegetables, the parsley and basil into a small bowl. Toss lightly.

In a small bowl or large measuring cup, combine all of the dressing ingredients. Mix well. Taste. If desired, add additional salt and pepper. Drizzle over the top of the vegetables and toss so the vegetables are coated with the dressing.

Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving to let the flavors combine.

Summer Squash with Walnuts

  • 2 small yellow summer squash (if you want more color, use one small green zucchini and one yellow squash)
  • 3 tablespoons mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Parmesan cheese shavings
  • ¼ cup candied walnuts

Rinse the squash well. Slice into very thin slices. Place the squash and mint into a small bowl and lightly toss.

In a bowl or large measuring cup, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir well and taste. If the dressing is too bitter, add an additional ¼ or ½ teaspoon sugar. If necessary, add additional salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the squash/mint mixture and toss to coat the slices.

Layer onto individual serving plates and top with cheese shavings and walnuts.

Candied Walnuts

  • 1 cup walnut halves or pieces
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Heat a nonstick skillet to medium heat. Add the butter to the pan and let it melt. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan. Cook for five minutes, stirring constantly to prevent the nuts from burning.

Remove from heat and place on to paper towels or parchment paper. Nuts must be quickly removed from the pan or they will all stick together. Let them cool for 5 to 10 minutes. The nuts can be used immediately or stored in an airtight container up to two weeks.

Donna Evans is an Echo Journal correspondent.