The Year In Food » Fine Seasonal Eating

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Summer Squash Salad with Little Gems

When I purchased a mandoline for the kitchen a couple years ago, I thought that I had arrived as a home cook. I envisioned perfectly composed dishes with paper-thin slices of fennel, or potatoes, or beets, or whatever it was that I wanted to pass along the blade of the instrument. But in two years, I believe that I’ve used it about four times. And that’s because it’s kind of a hassle: it’s cumbersome, and the parts aren’t easy to clean, and it winds up being more of a bother than it’s worth. What I’ve discovered is that I’m okay with loose edges, irregular cuts and a little imperfection. I think that gets at the heart of home cooking.

Cherry tomatoes in all their summer glory

But then there are those single-purpose tools that are neither cumbersome nor a burden. For instance, the julienne peeler. I just got my hands on this little dude, and I’m kind of smitten. How many times have we encountered recipes that call for julienned this or julienned that and have painstakingly done the work with a knife? And despite my protestations about too much perfection, it does a good job of making things look pretty.

Crookneck and Zucchini, marinating

I write about mandolines and julienne peelers because they’re rather helpful where salads like these are concerned. The goal is to marinate the summer squash, and the thinner your slice, the more effective the job. I first fell in love with a version of this salad at the lovely little restaurant called Evoe in Portland. The men behind the counter, both more chef than server, were smart and sassy and infinitely knowledgeable about simple, seasonal food. In fact, the food was so good that I walked around Portland in 95 degree heat in order to work up an appetite again so that I could stuff my face with a second round of their amazing dishes. And ever since, this simple salad has become a staple of my summer repertoire. There are so many ways to prepare it: take your choice of herbs, cheeses, acids (vinegar would do just as well as lemon juice), add some other summer produce if you wish, or present it in its simplest form. It’s classic and easy and perfect for a warm evening when there are better things to do than cook.

This Summer Squash Salad with Little Gems recipe is part of the July Seasonal Food Guide

Yield: 4-6 servings

1 medium crookneck squash (about 5 inches long)
1 medium zucchini (also about 5 inches long)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh, chopped basil
1 teaspoon fresh, chopped oregano
4-6 little gem lettuce leaves, rinsed
crumbled feta
a handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
salt + pepper to taste

First, prepare the squash. As mentioned, you can use a mandoline or a julienne peeler to achieve slender strands of the raw squash. If you don’t have either of these, a vegetable peeler will produce long, slender ribbons that are equally attractive. Just run the peeler slowly down the length of the squash.

Next, gently toss the squash with the lemon juice and olive oil and enough salt and pepper to taste. Leave to marinate at room temperature for about an hour, tossing occasionally.

After an hour has passed, drain the squash so that there is no excess liquid.

Divide the squash equally amongst the little gem lettuce leaves. Top with crumbled feta. If serving as finger food, nestle the quartered tomatoes into the squash. If serving on plates, arrange the tomatoes around the salad. Best served immediately.

  • NicoleD - I’ve been meaning to make something like this and I have all of these ingredients! I almost bought the julienne peeler, but opted for the mandolin. Damn. At least I’ll get to dust it off. Thanks for sharing this beautiful recipe.ReplyCancel

  • Mike@The Culinary Lens - A really nice salad. I love your simple presentation. I will be trying this very soon. I was planning on buying a mandolin for home use and this might just be the push I need.ReplyCancel

  • Nicole @cookingafterfive - This salad looks almost too cute to eat. And I say almost because if I had some in front of me, I’d admire it right before taking a bite.ReplyCancel

  • Brian @ A Thought For Food - I’m the same way… I have barely used my mandoline (only a few times to thinly slice some veggies and the couple times we’ve made potato chips… we have a deep fryer too).

    This dish is a magnificent use of fresh, seasonal produce and I can’t wait to give it a try.ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth @ Saffron Lane - Yes, I also have so many tools, many of which come from well-meaning friends who are SO excited to share them, but they often end up in the bottom of a drawer (sorry, guys). A well-made, super sharp knife always wins. However, this is a clear example of a time when a tool comes in mighty handy and beauty prevails!ReplyCancel

  • Rivki Locker - I’m just the same way! The simplest tools are the most often used ones. I love my julienne peeler, too. This recipe looks like a great way to put it to good use.ReplyCancel

  • la domestique - Love this post- beautiful ingredients thoughtfully prepared. I’m all about keeping it simple in the kitchen. I’ll be making your salad!ReplyCancel

  • Season with Reason - I couldn’t agree more about the mandoline. So annoying to clean and I’m kind of terrified to use, even though they’re supposed to be safer.

    What a dainty and delicious looking salad!ReplyCancel

  • kankana - I recently bought one of those julian cut tool and it’s not easy for sure to handle that.. at least for me. But the result is fantastic !ReplyCancel

  • Lynda - Love that peeler. And what a fun and light way to serve summer squash – perfect for the heat.ReplyCancel

  • Joanne - Well, I don’t have a mandoline or a julienne peeler but I know which one I’ll be purchasing ASAP! This salad looks so delicious. I love that it’s simple but still full of flavor!ReplyCancel

  • sara - ha, I too thought all my food would now be gorgeous with a mandoline, but thought of bringing that huge thing out never sounds worth it. I know they make more streamline ones, but mine is a pain. You are very persuasive with the peeler given this lovely salad!ReplyCancel

  • Kat - I absolutely love Evoe-everything they make inspires me. As always, your recipe has elegance and simplicity-equally inspiring:)ReplyCancel

  • Karen (Back Road Journal) - Your photography is outstanding and the little salad on the leaf is a beautiful presentation. Something I will be making soon.ReplyCancel

  • SG - I made this the other night and it has been lingering in my mind. It was really a perfect salad. My husband curiously and enthusiastically asked me where I found this recipe (as he ate every last tasty bit) and I was stoked to say from you KH!ReplyCancel


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