One From The Archives: Super Squash Salad

I posted this salad recipe more than two years ago, but I thought it warranted a reprise.  I’ve already made it three times this spring and early summer, and I predict I’ll be making it a lot more during the height of squash and zucchini season.  We had it for dinner tonight with buffalo sirloin steaks, and it was the perfect light foil to the rich, gamey meat.
First published April 4, 2010

Looking for a simple and healthy salad to take to all those spring barbecues and potlucks you’ve got coming up?  This salad has been a hit at every party I’ve taken it to.
In fact, I first had it at a potluck I went to a couple of years ago.  I took one bite and fell in love with it.  I asked the woman who brought it how she made it, and she quickly told me the few ingredients that were in it.  I ended up making it the next week for another function, and it was such a success, I’ve been taking it as my side dish to potlucks ever since.

Seriously, it’s one of the simplest salads you’ll ever make.  And the colors – I mean how can you resist those vibrant greens, reds, oranges and yellows?  It just begs to be devoured.

Ingredients:
3 yellow squash
2 zucchini
2 carrotts
1 red bell pepper
1/2 red onion
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 pinches salt

Begin by washing your veggies and slicing them into uniform slices.  I used a japanese mandoline to make quick work of it, but you could just as easily use a good sharp knife.  Just make sure you cut everything to a similar thickness – about an eighth of an inch.  Everything remains in its natural raw state, so you want to make sure nothing is too thick to be tender.
As you can see, the mandoline does a great job of giving you perfectly thin, uniform pieces.  I highly recommend it (they’re a little pricey, but they come in handy for situations like this; and, they make great homemade potato chips).
Once you’ve sliced everything (just julienne the pepper and onion), place all the veggies in a gallon zipper top bag.  Mix the vinegar, sugar and salt together, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt.  Pour this mixture into the bag with the veg and close it up, squeezing to release as much air as possible.  Let marinate in the fridge for at least two hours.  Can be made up to a day ahead.
The end product is a little sweet, a little sour, a A LOT delicious! The raw squash and zucchini have a soft, velvety texture, and the crunch from the carrots and onion is a nice contrast.  The onion has a nice spicy bite, and the red pepper is nice and sweet.  And you just can’t beat the color!

Healthy, flavorful, and beautiful – the perfect combination!

Enjoy.

Capturing the Sun in a Jar

Our little family just returned from eight sun-filled, relaxing days on the garden island of Kauai.  Our transition back to reality has been slow and somewhat painful.  I could chalk it up to jet lag and be done with it, but I don’t think that would do it justice.The truth is, there are a handful of places in this world that, the minute I set foot within their borders, I feel like I’ve slipped on a favorite pair of comfy pajamas.  Kauai is one of them.  Nearly eight years ago, my husband and I chose this quiet little island as our honeymoon destination, and ever since we’ve dreamed of going back.

A couple of years ago, my parents-in-law purchased a time share on Kauai, and they invited all of us (our family, my husband’s two brothers and their wives and children) to join them there for a week this summer.  While it was a completely different experience from the one we had when we were newlyweds, it was just as remarkable in its own way.
We aren’t really big “doers” when we go on vacation.  There are a lot of really cool outdoor adventures to be had on Kauai, and one day I imagine we’ll participate in some of them.  We’ve just never felt a lot of pressure to do a million things while we’re there – probably because we know in our hearts that we’ll be back again one day.

On this last trip, we took in some sites, and marveled at the gorgeous scenery.  We visited a number of little towns, and enjoyed some delicious food from some well-known local joints along the way.  The pizza in Kilauea topped with garden fresh veggies was the perfect quick lunch on the way home from the lighthouse;  the shrimp in Waimea was tender, spicy, crispy and delicious; the Puka dogs in Poipu were just as weird and wonderful as I imagined they’d be after seeing them featured on No Reservations last year; and the burger at Bubba’s, made with Kauai grass fed beef, was juicy and flavorful.  The people are friendly, the food is good, and the scenery is magical.  Is it any wonder that I feel right at home there? The minute I set foot on the island eight years ago, I knew I belonged there.  And this most recent trip has just re-confirmed my suspicions.

So, returning to real life has been a little bit of a challenge.  In addition to adjusting to the time change, it almost feels like we left a little piece of ourselves on the garden isle.  I guess we’ll just have to head back one day soon to retrieve it.

In the meantime, I’m keeping myself busy in the garden, trying to keep up with the growing number of sun-ripened tomatoes that seem to be spilling forth from their tangled vines.  I returned home to find the table on the deck weighted down with a ridiculous number of giant pink brandywines, little black princes and tiny jellybean grape tomatoes.  Ever since I’ve been doing my best to eat them or process them before they turn to moldy mush.

We’ve eaten our weight in this delicious pasta salad – a pound of tri-colored rotini tossed with an equal measure of quartered grape tomatoes and/or diced brandywine tomatoes, four ounces of chevre, and a few sprigs of fresh thyme.

I’ve made salsa using these lovely little golden grape tomatoes, some of the black princes, and minced jalapenos.  I canned seven pints of a mixture of brandywines, romas and black princes the other day (and there are more on their way this week).

But my favorite application has to be these little nuggets of pure tomatoey goodness – dehydrated multi-colored jellybean grape tomatoes.

I found myself the other day with a giant mound of these little yellow, red and green wonders (they’re prolific suckers – I had six full trays of them in my dehydrator, all from a couple of days of picking).  I halved them and tossed them with about 1/2 a teaspoon of pickling salt.  Then I laid them out on the trays of my dehydrator (although you could sun-dry them, too) and let them dry at 125F for about 12 hours (the instructions said to leave them for 5-9 hours, but mine were still awfully wet at the 9-hour mark, so I let them go a few hours longer – now they’re nice and raisin-like).

I’ve eaten a few of them straight from the jar, and their flavor is reminiscent of what I imagine a ray of sunshine would taste like if you could gather it in a cup and drink it – infused with warmth and comfort, umami at its very core.  I can’t wait to use them in this pesto recipe from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

So, while we don’t have the sun and sand at our back door anymore, we can at least capture a little bit of sunshine and keep it close.  When it comes time for the leaves to fall from the trees, and the gray winter days seem neverending, we can open that little jar of flavor and infuse our meals with a little summer warmth.  And close our eyes and dream of Kauai.