The green markets are loaded with copious amounts of beautiful zucchini and summer squash right now. With the abundance of varieties, shapes, and colors, it’s hard not to get inspired to play with them. The temperatures (and humidity, yuck!) have been killer here in the city. On these hot summer days, cooking these wonderful vegetables seems far too heavy. This salad is a perfect way to enjoy a light, refreshing, and raw salad of beautiful summer squash. If only I had a nice little porch and a cool summer breeze to accompany this dish. Now that would make this salad perfect!
The light, crisp zucchini are a perfect vehicle for sweet and tangy sun dried tomatoes, and the pine nuts and ricotta add salt and texture to each bite without weighing the dish down. Taste aside, you’ll want to devour this salad after just looking at it, you eat with your eyes before you mouth, right? Creating ribbons of zucchini is easy and this technique really adds a professional touch and beautiful presentation.
Sun dried tomatoes were originally preserved in Italy as a means to store them through the winter. Like their fresh counterpart, they are packed full of lycopene, a carotenoid that is responsible for their vibrant red color as well as providing powerful anti-oxidants that are associated with lowering incidences of cancer and heart disease. They are also full of antioxidant rich vitamins A and C and valuable minerals such as calcium.
Raw squash is very low in calories, as it is comprised of about 95% water. It contains good amounts of manganese, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and fiber, but it is not a powerhouse of nutrients like say, broccoli or kale. But, on days like today when you can literally feel the weight and water in the hot air, a cold salad like this is perfectly refreshing.
When purchasing pine nuts, choose varieties that are grown in Italy. Pine nuts imported from China have recently been linked to a rare condition that leaves a bitter metallic taste in your mouth for weeks. Those affected complain that after eating these nuts, everything they eat has a horrible, bitter taste. So be sure to read the label of origin and choose Italian pine nuts, or pignolis. It is also a good idea to store them in the freezer as their natural oils go rancid rather quickly at room temperature.
Summer Squash and Sun Dried Tomato Salad
- 2 - 3 summer squash, varying shapes and colors
- ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted and lightly salted
- 3 sun dried tomatoes, julienned
- ricotta salata, shaved for garnish
- 2-3 tablespoons sun dried tomato pesto, recipe below
Wash squash, and thinly slice lengthwise. I recommend buying a Japanese mandolin for this. It is a cheap and handy kitchen tool that allows you to cut vegetables into various sizes with ease, and dramatically enhances the presentation of your dishes. Gently toss with sun dried tomato pesto, just enough to lightly cover. Arrange on your plate, and garnish with tomato slivers, pine nuts and ricotta salata.
Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
When buying sun dried tomatoes, I suggest buying the ones in oil from the bulk section of your local market. If you cannot find them like this, the jars in oil will work just fine. This way you can use the flavor infused oil in the pesto. If you can only find dried sun dried tomatoes be sure to rehydrate them in water.
- 1 cup sun dried tomatoes
- 3 cloves garlic
- ½ cup packed basil
- ¼ cup olive oil (or oil from tomatoes)
- ¼ cup water
- zest and juice of one lemon
- salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. You may need to add a little more oil or water to reach the desired consistency. Also, I have chosen to use part water and part oil, but for a little richer version, you can omit the water and add oil until the desired consistency is reached. Left over pesto will store in the fridge for 1-2 weeks. Enjoy with pasta, or as a spread!