It doesn’t take more than a couple fresh ingredients at their prime to make an appetizer that you might spend upwards of $10 for in a restaurant. But in a restaurant, a dish like this–even with so simple a philosophy that I can agree with–nags me a little. It’s just too precious. Too plated. And often, too skimpy.
I totally get why it’s hard to execute these simple dishes just so at dining establishments that put a lot of effort into getting the best fresh ingredients of the day they can find. When I staged at Chez Panisse three summers ago, we made a salad fairly similar to this, and all the vegetables were shaved to order, in individual portions. But moreover, that kitchen needed to be well-stocked with seriously prime ingredients, because slicing paper-thin pieces of, say, summer squash, just isn’t going to work with a slightly bruised, so-so specimen. If I had all that veg on my hands, I’d probably bruise them all in short time.
So, just as soon as I scuttled home from the market with these divine glories of summer produce, I made this salad to go with breakfast (or, specifically, eggs on toast). I could see myself ordering just this for breakfast at a fancy brunch spot in Brooklyn, that is, if I could wait long enough for a table, and shelling over $20 or more, depending on whether I splurged for a Bloody Mary or not (I’m not into mimosa).
But enough with the negativity. A salad like this–at the expense and effort of a restaurant or yourself–just makes sense in the summer. The colors sing. The taste is better the sooner you eat it, and you don’t even have to turn on the stove. Shaved up to order, a really good summer squash or zucchini is done well by this preparation.
That’s probably why you’ll see it done a lot. With names like zucchini carpaccio or crudo, recalling the elegance–but not the ultra-careful handling–of raw meat appetizers, it’s become a new standard of summer fare. I didn’t think I would use the nectarines I’d bought for snacking in this dish too, but I did. Because they were still a little firm (because I wanted to eat them throughout the week, letting them ripen gradually at their own times), I thought they’d work for slicing in a mandoline, too. The extra acidity and juicy sweetness coated the squash slices with another dimension. Not quite overpowering, but enjoyable on their own, aside.
The extra touch of veneer in this salad came from tart lemon juice, rich olive oil, and a bit of parmesan, shaved thinly, for some umami intrigue. A sprinkle of parsley from a plant that needed to be picked and it was over. The egg poaching for the toasted bread was ready just in time. Yes, I did feel a little twee eating it. And writing about it, I have to shake my head at what a sucker I am for simple, botanical joys. But at least I can take pride in making it, just so, on my plates and whatnot, and having enough fruits and vegetables leftover to make twenty if I so chose.
Shaved Summer Squash and Nectarine Salad
(makes 2-3 servings)
1 medium-sized summer squash or zucchini, firm and fresh
1 medium-large nectarine, slightly firm
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon half’s worth)
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 ounces Parmiggiano-Reggiano
handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
Trim the ends of the squash and using a slicer such as a mandoline, shave off fine slices. Toss the pieces in the lemon juice, a small drizzle of the olive oil, and a pinch of the salt.
Adjust the slicer to a slightly thicker setting and shave off rounds of the nectarine, turning the fruit to use as much of the surface as you can. (Eat the rest.)
Toss the nectarine slices with the marinated summer squash and arrange on individual serving plates. Shave the Parmiggiano-Reggiano directly atop each plate. Sprinkle each with a little extra olive oil, sea salt, and the chopped parsley, and serve immediately.
(for 2-3 servings)
1 summer squash (at $2.25/lb): $0.50
1 nectarine (at $3/lb): $1.00
half a lemon: $0.25
1 tablespoon olive oil: $0.20
1-2 ounces Parmiggiano-Reggiano: $0.60
handful parsley (from house plant): $0.20
Total: $2.75[Health Factor: Whether green, yellow, striped, beige or cream, summer squashes are a great source of vitamins and minerals, including fiber and potassium, Vitamin C and Vitamin A. Nectarines sweeten the deal with more antioxidants, as well as small amounts of protein. Add some Vitamin K with a healthy showering of fresh parsley, and it’ll help defend and detox your system as we head into cooler months.
Seven maple leaves: A salad of summer produce, seasoned with a few non-local ingredients (such as olive oil, lemon and parmesan). You can try it out with any manner of summer squashes or zucchinis, and combine with additional vegetables like cucumber or carrots. Whatever’s the freshest and most enticing-looking type of summer squash is the one this dish is meant for.