I have a friend. That friend has a farm share. Did everyone but me already know about these things? I didn’t, until I came to work at my present job, where all of my co-workers have a farm share. It is exactly what it sounds like – you pay for a share in a farm, and weekly during the summer, you get an allotment of fresh veggies, which constantly change depending on what is in season. It is a great way to 1) Make sure you eat your veggies; 2) Get exposure to some veggies you might not typically buy if left to your own devices; and 3) learn new recipes for said veggies. It really promotes seasonal cooking.
So anyway, my friend was going to be out of town, so he suggested that I pick up and use his farm share veggies for that week so that they wouldn’t go to waste, and I happily agreed. The harvest from that week (and imagine getting a comparable amount of fresh veggies every week in all different varieties), which was also conveniently right before the 4th of July weekend, included: cabbage, carrots, red and green onions, green beans, swiss chard, cucumbers, red beets, and summer squash. Lots of summer squash. As in 8 of them, a mixture of zucchinis, yellow pattypans and yellow crook neck squash. Now, I had managed to use up the cabbage and carrots, plus some cucumbers and onion making cole slaw and a pasta salad. The swiss chard and beet greens found a home being sautéed up as a side dish to some chicken. But what about the summer squash?
Summer squash, as it turns out, isn’t a veggie at all, at least to botanists. They are fruit belonging to the same genus as pumpkins, Cucurbita. Move up one taxonomic rank to the family Cucurbitaceae, and you can add cucumbers and gourds to that list as well. Summer squash are normally harvested in the summer (hence, the name), when they are still immature and have thin skins. The skins of summer squashes are jam-packed with nutrients, so resist the urge to peel them (although, peeling a pattypan squash would be next to impossible anyway).
But I digress. Back to the mystery of what to do with the summer squash. What I wanted, since it was 4th of July weekend and I had already over-extended myself volunteering to make tons of stuff, was a nice simple recipe and I found it from Rachel Ray: a simple cold squash salad with a simple dressing. And when I say simple, I mean simple, the dressing itself is only mustard, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. This salad is a snap to put together, it barely takes longer than the time required to cut up some vegetables. I use it with squash here as per Rachel Ray’s original recipe, but the dressing would be great on a number of things, so this recipe can be modified for whatever veggies you happen to have laying around, anything you would be willing to eat raw. A great way to use up some excess vegetables, if you find yourself in that situation. Heck, throw in some cooked pasta, and maybe some cheese, and *poof* you have a pasta salad!
- ~5-6 summer squash, sliced
- 1/2-1 pint red grape tomatoes, whole
- 1 cucumber, sliced
- ½ medium red onion, sliced
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (I used Grey Poupon Country Dijon)
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
* Feel free to substitute any veggies that you want, or to add more tomato, cucumber, onion, etc, if that is to your taste.
- In a medium bowl, toss together the sliced veggies and the tomatoes.
- In a small bowl, combine the Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar.
- Whisk in the olive oil until combined. Make sure to do this before pouring onto the vegetables. In addition to adding flavor to the dressing, the mustard is acting as an emulsifier here, and will keep the oil and vinegar from separating later on.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and pour over the vegetables. Cover and store in the fridge.
Summer squash is very mild, so this dish almost entirely takes on the flavor of the dressing. Therefore, if you don’t like mustard, this dressing recipe might not be the right one for you, in which case you can easily substitute in a more typical balsamic vinaigrette as the dressing (or any other type of dressing, although some variation of vinaigrette would probably taste best).
When I made this salad, I combined the veggies with the dressing a few hours before I wanted to serve it. It will keep, dressed and refrigerated, for several days. If you use all the dressing and you think it needs more, it is very easy to make a double batch. Don’t be alarmed if the salad seems like it dried out when you pull it out of the fridge, that is just the oil solidifying in the cold – a few minutes at room temp and the oil should re-liquify.
I’m a big fan of easy recipes that taste good, and this is definitely one of them.