Friday, July 8, 2011
Grilled Summer Squash Salad with Basil, Mint & Lemon
One of my favorite things by far about the summertime is lunch. The meal seems to fall so effortlessly into place in a way it never can in cooler months. After all, it is intrinsically suited to sun-dappled tables, crisp, chilled wine, and a general, intoxicating feeling that one is living well. Especially now, when the heat here in the city hasn’t reached its soul-crushing height yet, and the flavors in the market are still young, floral, sweet, perfect.
During the summer, I keep a bunch of fresh herbs in a glass of water on the kitchen counter (most recently chervil, mint, basil, and a few springs of lavender), ready to adorn whatever I bring home from the greenmarket that day. All that’s really needed is some good, fruity olive oil and salt, maybe a spritz of lemon juice, and a simple midday feast is never more than a few moments away.
This summer squash recipe, infinitely adaptable depending on which herbs you have at hand and what squash looks best that day, is one of the cornerstones of my summer lunches. For preference, I like a mix of colors, shapes and flavors. Nutty pattypan. Floral, young zucchini. Crisp, fluted Romanesco. And a lemony dressing flecked with fresh basil and mint serves to underline the light char from the grill. My grill pan seems to stay on the stove top most of the summer anyway.
This salad makes a lovely lunch with some sliced tomatoes in olive oil and maybe a few velvety curls of prosciutto. If I have the time, I like to sauté some ricotta-filled squash blossoms too. The squash salad works just as well at room temperature as it does fresh off the grill – just be sure to dress the squash slices while they’re hot and can soak up the lemon and olive oil, but don’t add the basil and mint until just before serving.
Assorted fresh summer squash
Juice of 1 – 2 lemons, depending on the size of your salad
Good extra virgin olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Small handful of fresh basil leaves
A few fresh mint leaves
Heat a grill or grill pan to medium high heat – you want a quick, hot sear here so that your squash will soften and steam on the plate rather than on the grill. Slice your squash lengthwise into thick ¼ inch pieces. Grill in batches, a few minutes a side, just until you can see good grill marks, and remove to a serving platter.
When all your squash slices are done, sprinkle liberally with fresh lemon juice, drizzle with olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper. Just before serving, roll your basil and mint leaves into a cigar shape and slice across as thinly as possible into a chiffonade. Sprinkle over the squash, check the seasoning with more lemon juice, salt and pepper, and serve immediately.