Monday, August 31, 2009

The colors of summer

Although San Franciscans are largely deprived of good summer weather (as I write this, our heat is on and I'm wearing wool socks), we do enjoy good summer produce. Scratch that: we enjoy great summer produce. The vibrant shades of red, yellow, and green that have been appearing in our produce box recently have put me in a salad kind of mood.

The fact that these salads often accompany wintery dishes doesn't bother me. Last week I made a cheery tomato and cucumber salad to go alongside a roasted pork loin and creamy grits. The salad provided a dash of brightness to an otherwise muted palette.

To everyone's delight, over the weekend, we had one day of startling heat, up into the 90s. We'd invited our friend Alby over for dinner and I was a bit undecided on what to make. Most of what I cook is rather cozy, since the weather year-round allows for it. On the few hot days we enjoy each year, I never know what to make; apparently my cooking style is very reliant on the oven, as well as on boiling pots of pasta water. Our infrequent heat waves shed light on why people in other parts of the country (and state) grill during the summertime.

Unfortunately, we have no grill and a backyard that is tough to get to anyway--you must go down some rickety stairs and through the garage, shimmying by the cars parked tandem-style. It's not conducive to a laid-back BBQ. So I decided to make one of my go-to company dishes, chicken roasted with cherry tomatoes, honey, and rosemary.

This dish requires the oven for about half an hour. I figured I should do everyone a favor and minimize the heat for everything else I was going to make.

Using a vegetable peeler, I made ribbons out of zucchini and yellow squash, tossed them with a bit of salt, then set them in a colander to drain for about 5 minutes. Then I rinsed and dried them gently in a kitchen towel.

I composed a dressing of rice vinegar, canola oil, lemon juice, dijon, sugar, salt and pepper. Then I tossed the squash with the dressing, throwing in some lemon cucumbers and chives.

The result was a very pretty and refreshing salad, if I do say so myself, and a hit at the dinner table. And to my surprise the leftovers survived a night in the fridge and were a good accompaniment to our sandwiches the next day for lunch (fried egg for the husband, roast pork for me). I suggest you try a little zucchini ribbon salad for yourself, while the vegetable is in season and some people's gardens overflow with it. It was quite delicious.


  1. Very beautiful photos of the zucchini. Great idea to use it raw, will bookmark that - I usually make a slice with overabundant zucchini.

  2. What a gorgeous salad. No, make that saladS! Thanks for posting them and for those gorgeous photos. How did you soften the zucchini salad photos? They're ethereal.

  3. Looks lovely. I'm jealous, our produce in the NE this year hasn't been so hot. Sigh. :)

  4. shaz: thank you! yes, it's the first time I'd done anything with it raw either.

    Kate: Thank you for the compliment! I don't know much about picture-taking but I do use the macro setting to focus on one thing while softening/blurring the rest.

    Bob: Well, at least you can probably get zucchini, even if you don't have great tomatoes...

  5. Love the squash ribbons! And the fact that they don't require a mandoline - I think the vegetable peeler is an underused tool in most kitchens.

  6. ooo... the zucchini ribbons look so dreamy and lovely in the photos. Aw, now you're making me wistful that summer is coming to an end!!

  7. This salad is a future part of a family dinner menu! And I want to be present at the assemblage and presentation. It is gorgeous and looks so crisp and refreshing. I should have been savoring it last Saturday when it was 101 down here and I was baking! The Mother

  8. croquecamille: Thanks! And I agree about the vegetable peeler--it's so handy!

    wasabiprime: Thank you for stopping by! Yes, we'd better enjoy the summer produce while we can...

    Mom: I'll show you how to do it, it's super easy!

  9. usually i don't let the appearance of something sway my decision of whether or not i like it, but even i have to admit that i appreciate when a dish is so colorful. lovely photos. :)

  10. Grace: thank you! That's what I love about summer produce, it is so colorful and beautiful even if you don't do anything to it.

  11. Looks like summer on a plate. Ahhh, I guess we better enjoy it while we still can, now that fall is right around the corner. My gosh, how has this year gone by so crazy fast?