Rags to Riches: Summer Squash Salad with Basil and Chilies

Summer Squash
I took a “brief” break there…

Much has happened since my last post.  Work has taken me to Asia multiple times (I’ll be sure to share my noodle soup recipe once the weather gets cold…but let’s not talk about the cold yet), the dog is properly house trained but has developed a fear of anything on wheels, and the cats have begrudgingly accepted this 4-legged intruder isn’t leaving any time soon.

Anyway, let’s talk about summer squash.  I know, it’s getting crazy.

I was having a lazy Saturday morning until the thought occurred to me that I had 4 summer squash quietly waiting to be used in something fantastic.  I’d picked them up during an after work stroll through the Union Square farmer’s market as it was closing for the day.  A man working at the organic vegetable stand was furiously packing squash and other piles of veggies into small bags and placing them next to a sign reading “3 dollars a bag.”  End of the day vegetable closeout sale?  Imagine my elation.  Needless to say, the fresh, discounted squash made it home with me. 

Since it was such a lazy Saturday and I hadn’t made it to the market, I needed to get creative.  I realized, after some long blank stares into the fridge, I had the goods for something good: leftover basil, lemons, red onion, walnuts, and delicious dried red chilies from a friend (aka crushed red pepper).

Lemon, Basil, ChiliWalnuts

Chopped IngredientsI could’ve broken out the mandolin (slicer, not the instrument) but I didn’t have it in me.  It was stored high up in a cupboard which would require standing on my toes and reaching a few inches.  I’m not a gymnast…  The vegetable peeler worked just perfectly and I ended up with lovely, long squash ribbons. 

ShavingPeeling was the most time consuming part of this process and bordered on therapeutic, especially while entertained by mindless house hunting shows.  After I’d amassed a pile of delicate ribbons, I just had to quickly zest a lemon, chiffonade the basil, thinly slice the onion, crumble the walnuts (also strangely satisfying) and throw everything into the bowl.  After a squeeze of lemon juice, a few glugs of olive oil and a quick toss, I had myself a lovely salad brimming with summer flavor.  Spicy sweetness from the basil tendrils, heat from the pepper, nutty crunch from the walnuts and fresh pep from the lemon beautifully dressed what was once sad, unwanted squash in a bag.  Lazy-day-turned-modern-day Cinderella story…

Summer Squash Salad with Basil and Chilies

3-4 medium summer squash, thinly sliced (can substitute zucchini)
8-10 leaves fresh basil, chiffonaded (How to Chiffonade)

1 lemon (zest and juice)
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup crushed walnuts
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes or 1 fresh red chili, chopped (add more or less depending on spice tolerance)
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Using vegetable peeler or mandolin, thinly slice squash into long ribbons and place in large bowl.  Combine with remaining ingredients, toss well and serve. 

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