Like many home cooks who also garden, I get great satisfaction using the herbs and vegetables I grow each summer in whatever I’m cooking that day. As such, one of my favorite things to do during my early-morning walks is to check out other people’s gardens to see how my green(ish) thumb stacks up.
When it comes to summer squash, I always lose out to an elderly neighbor who grows some of the best-looking zucchini I’ve ever seen in an unlikely spot: behind his garage, on a tiny patch of grass alongside an alley.
It’s not even August yet, and his zucchini are already twice as large as mine, with smooth, glossy skin. Another year, another bumper crop. I’m so envious!
I ask him every year how he does it and I always get the same response: a sheepish shrug, followed by, “Maybe because my daughter gets the plants in West Virginia?”
What I do know is that piles of locally grown zucchini will be showing up before long at farmers markets, farm stands and grocery stores, and that after you’ve made your umpteenth loaf of zucchini bread, you’ll be looking for a few new recipes. This salad will hit the spot with its East-Asian flavors and pretty summer colors.
It starts with zoodles — long, raw zucchini noodles made with a spiralizer or vegetable peeler. They’re tossed with sliced bell peppers, charred broccoli, shredded carrot and green onion, then dressed in a dressing made with tahini, rice vinegar, ginger and soy.
The result is a low-carb, fresh summer salad that bursts with taste, color and texture.
If you use store-bought squash, look for smaller, in-season zucchini, which have thinner skins and fewer seeds.
Zucchini noodle salad with tahini-ginger dressing
For the dressing:
½ cup tahini
5 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
4 teaspoons grated ginger
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons hot sauce, or more to taste
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon salt
For the salad:
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
12 ounces broccoli florets, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 ears corn, off the cob
1 pound zucchini noodles, from 2 zucchini squash
½ red and ½ yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into strips
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
4 scallions, sliced thin on bias
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
Prepare dressing: Process all ingredients in a blender until smooth, about 30 seconds. If it seems too thick, add a little more vinegar or soy sauce, or more hot sauce if you like it extra spicy. Transfer to a large serving bowl. (Dressing can be made and refrigerated up to 24 hours in advance; whisk to recombine before using.)
For salad: Heat oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmery. Add corn and broccoli to pan and cook until softened and spotty brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to plate and let cool thoroughly.
Add zucchini, bell pepper, carrot, scallions and corn and broccoli to bowl with dressing and toss to combine. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve.
Makes 4-6 servings.
— Adapted from “The Complete Salad Cookbook” by America’s Test Kitchen