Labor Day has come and gone, and even though the holiday is regarded as summer’s last hoorah, we all know the season technically stretches well into September. Especially here in California. We still have warm weather for the next few weeks, as well as a plethora of the summer’s last bits of produce. Yellow crookneck squash and green Italian zucchini come together in a tantalizing, raw salad bursting with flavor and colors. If you’re not sure what to do with summer squash hanging out in your fridge, here is a salad that is great during these warm days of the season.
I’m not sure if everyone out there loves squash as much as I do. In fact, there are some of you who put it in a category with beets and brussels sprouts because you were probably forced to eat squash in an unappetizing form. Similar to several other veggies, summer squash was once abused and overcooked until it resembled nothing more than a limp pile of mushy rounds on a plate. Luckily for me, my first experience with yellow crookneck squash was my mom’s Southern Squash Casserole. Actually, the recipe came from our church’s congregation-based cookbook, and it was a buttery, creamy mix of seasoned cooked onions and squash, crushed crackers and lots of cheddar cheese. Whenever I see yellow squash, I think of that casserole. This time around, I needed something a bit lighter than my beloved calorie-ladden dish. Using a vegetable peeler, you’ll end up with a bowl of “ribbons” that will form the base of the salad, showcasing the veggie in its fairly natural state.
When it comes to summer squash, the only thing to remember is choose average-sized varieties as they have the best flavor and texture. The seeds aren’t too hard and fibrous, yet the flesh has had a chance to develop a light sweetness. There will be leftover parts of the squash, so slice and sauté, bake or fry as desired. There are many recipes for marinated summer squash, but this one is special thanks to slices of red jalapeno, red onion and scallions. The red onions have a milder bite after a quick soak in cool water. This ensures the onion will not overpower the tender squash. The fresh parsley and mint, in addition to the lemon vinaigrette, temper a bit of the heat from the jalapeno. The almonds provide crunch, and the smokey flavor of the nuts complements the various elements in the salad. You can combine most of the ingredients ahead of time, but it’s best to dress the salad just before serving. This is a raw, vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free salad, which makes it a great option for a healthier meal or side dish.
- 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- Zest of 2 lemons
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 1/2 pounds medium zucchini
- 1 1/2 pounds medium yellow squash
- 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 medium red jalapeno, halved, seeded & thinly sliced
- 4 scallions, white parts removed, green tops halved & thinly sliced lengthwise
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup salted smoked almonds, roughly chopped
- In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Set aside.
- Slice the top and bottom off the zucchini and yellow squash. Using a vegetable peeler, run the blade along one side of the zucchini until you hit the seeds. Flip to the opposite side, using the peeler to remove shavings of zucchini. Continue to shave the other two opposite sides. Repeat with all of the zucchini and squash, then place the vegetable ribbons into a large colander over a bowl.
- Sprinkle the last 1/2 teaspoon of salt over the vegetables, and toss lightly to distribute the salt. Let the vegetables sit for 15 minutes. Use paper towels to press the rest of the liquid out of the zucchini and squash, then discard the liquid in the bowl. Place the zucchini and squash into a large serving bowl.
- While the zucchini and squash sits, place the sliced red onion into a small sieve, then set it inside a bowl. Pour water into the bowl until the onions are just covered. After 15 minutes, drain and pat dry with paper towels.
- Add the red onion, garlic, jalapeno, scallation, parsley and mint to the serving bowl, and lightly toss to combine. Sprinkle the almonds over the salad, drizzle the vinaigrette on top, and serve immediately.