My garden conspired to give up all the ingredients I needed for this pretty salad just in time for a potluck party this past weekend. The salad was spectacular. I don’t often associate “spectacular” with summer squash, but I feel it’s fitting in this case. It’s another Martha Stewart recipe that I have longingly looked at for more than a year. I modified it, so it lives up to its superlatives. It is truly summer in a bowl. You can get all the ingredients at your local farmers market, or substitute as necessary. Fresh herbs can stand in for basil or experiment with other edible flowers besides nasturtiums and borage.
A few things to note. Zucchini and squashes need some help in the flavor department, so it helps to layer it with flavors. Salt is key. In this case, I shaved the squash paper thin with a mandoline and soaked the ribbons in icy, salted water, so they become crisp and a tiny bit pickled. I found some ricotta cheese — at our local Italian market, Micuccis — from Maplebrook Farm in Vermont. This stuff is so good, I ate it by the spoonful. I am thoroughly spoiled and will never go back to the ‘old’ stuff. The ricotta gives the salad some heft. I also dotted the ricotta with pesto for an extra kick of spice, fat and flavor.
The dressing calls for thyme oil, which is easy enough to make. I didn’t think it was flavorful enough to carry the salad, so I made the thyme oil and then added lime juice, shallots, garlic, agave and salt and pepper to make it a full-fledged vinaigrette. Feel free to simply toss with a vinaigrette of choice.
Enjoy summer’s bounty.
Zucchini Ribbon Salad
1 large yellow zucchini or summer squash, sliced into thin ribbons
1 generous handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 handful of basil leaves, torn
5-6 nasturtium flowers
5-6 borage flowers
4-5 zucchini/squash blossoms, halved with pistil removed
1 cup or more of ricotta cheese
3-4 T pesto, jarred or fresh
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 cup olive oil
2 T lime juice
1-2 tsp agave or honey
1 garlic clove, sliced thinly
1 small shallot, sliced thinly
Sea salt and pepper
1. Take ribbonned squash, and place in a bowl with cold water, a few cubes of ice and a teaspoon of salt. Let sit in refrigerator for an hour or until crisp and slightly salty to taste.
2. Make thyme oil by bruising thyme leaves with the dull edge of a knife. Place the bruised sprigs along with olive oil in a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Take it off the heat and let it steep, covered, for 20 minutes. Discard the sprigs, and let the errant leaves hang out in the oil.
3. Use thyme oil as your base for the dressing. Combine lime juice, agave, garlic, shallot, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk with a fork. Whisk in 6 T of the thyme oil. Adjust to taste by adding a little vinegar or more agave.
4. Take the chilled squash out of the refrigerator, and drain over the sink. Gently squeeze the squash with paper towels to absorb additional moisture. Place the ribbons in the middle of a large platter or shallow salad bowl. Add tomatoes, and lightly dress the salad. Then place remaining ingredients on your little mountain of squash. Since the flowers and blossoms are delicate, avoid drowning them in dressing by spooning a little over top. Place dollops of ricotta strategically, and add pesto, if you like. Take some photos of your masterpiece.