Thursday, July 24, 2008

Veggie Might: Summer Squash Salad, Goldilocks, and the Three Boxers

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism.

Last weekend, I was invited to hang with one of my old waitron pals at his sister’s house in central Massachusetts. The sister and her family were on vacation in their ancestral homeland; C was there to watch the three big, awesome dogs and take care of the pool. He definitely needed my help. Oh yeah.

I was instructed to bring nothing but my bathing suit. “They have everything here,” C promised. The bus schedule and my CSA pick-up time conspired to force the vegetables along for the trip. Perfect, I thought, I’ll cook for us. We made a quick stop at the grocery on the way from the bus station to the house for a few little things like 99-cents-a-pound Vidalias and 6-for-$1.99 corn-on-the-cob.

As I unpacked the groceries, I spied with my little eye a perfect summer squash on the kitchen counter, and C pointed to the vegetable garden in the backyard. “Use whatever you want. There is plenty.” It was so perfectly yellow and nubby; I wanted to eat the squash that very minute, but we had swimming to attend to.

When it was time to make lunch on Sunday, I took a quick scan of the cupboards. I didn’t want to use much more than what I brought. I was already sleeping in someone’s bed, swimming in someone’s pool, and eating someone’s squash.

My CSA take included purslane, a mild, delightful wild green that kind of looks like a cross between a jade plant and watercress, and a very small head of red leaf lettuce. I thought a salad with squash would go great with our corn-on-the-cob.

While the corn boiled, I blanched the squash to cut down on the sauté time (have you noticed I love to sauté?) and prepared a little marinade/salad dressing using a just a bit of the family’s dried herbs, oil, and vinegar. It only took one tablespoon of oil to make enough to coat the squash and have enough left over to dress the salad.

Everything turned out beautifully. Light and summery, it was the perfect poolside meal. C mmmed as he ate; and I was feeling pretty good until I looked over at his plate where the squash remained. “I don’t really like squash,” he sheepishly admitted. “But the salad part is good! And the corn is great.”

He was so sweetly diplomatic. I felt bad for not asking if he liked squash in the first place. The dogs didn’t like the squash, either, but then, they were only interested in giant bones anyway. I didn’t take it personally. If nothing else, I can boil water like a pro.

Summer Squash Salad
Yields 3 servings

3 cups purslane
2 cups red leaf lettuce
1 small summer squash
2 slices Vidalia onion
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried marjoram
2 tsp salt

1) In a ramekin or small bowl, mix dried herbs, 1 tsp salt, and olive oil and set aside.

2) Wash and set aside purslane and lettuce. Dry in a towel if necessary.

3) Cut squash lengthwise into quarters, then slice into half inch pieces.

4) In a small saucepan, bring two cups of water to boil. (Normally when blanching, you would prepare bowl of ice water to quickly stop the cooking, but I skipped this step since I planned to sauté immediately.)

5) When water boils, add squash and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain into colander.

6) Dry out the saucepan, add 1 tsp (not the whole tbsp) of herbed oil to pan, and add squash, coating well.

7) Sauté squash until tender but not mushy, about 5 – 7 minutes. Add remaining tsp of salt while stirring.

8) Let squash cool while assembling salad. Toss together greens and add sliced onion in medium salad bowl.

9) Add vinegar to remaining herbed oil mixture for salad dressing.

10) Top with squash. Toss with dressing and serve.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
82 calories, 5.3g fat, $.62

3 cups purslane: 21 calories, 0g fat, $1.00
2 cups red leaf lettuce: 8 calories, 0g fat, $.40
1 small summer squash: 72 calories, 2g fat
2 slices Vidalia onion: 12 calories, 0g fat, $.12
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil*: 120 calories, 14g fat, $.08
2 tbsp red wine vinegar: 6 calories, 0g fat, $.19
1 tsp dried parsley: 2 calories, 0g fat, $.02
1 tsp dried thyme: 2 calories, 0g fat, $.02
1 tsp dried marjoram: 2 calories, 0g fat, $.02
2 tsp salt: negligible calories and fat, $.02
TOTAL: 245 calories, 16g fat, $1.87
PER SERVING: 82 calories, 5.3g fat, $.62

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gros lard said...

Why people insist on using dried marjoram is beyond me, when fresh marjoram is simply mind-blowingly good...

Jaime said...

Leigh, I love purslane! I've heard the stems are tough when raw, but I've been mixing the little leaves in with egg salad - it's delicious! I'm totally on a wild greens kick. Apparently the folks at the farmers market are, too.

gros, maybe it's because they don't have an herb garden? That's sort of like saying, "I can't imagine why people shop at Target when Chanel makes such beautiful, well-made clothes!" I mean, smaller scale, sure, but not everyone has that luxury. (Here I would show you a picture of my languishing basil plant, victim of my attempt at urban gardening.)

Leigh said...

Jaime, the purslane has been such a delicious surprise from the CSA. The stems were tender in the salad I made, though I used just the leaves for a potato salad last weekend.

gros, if fresh herbs had been at my disposal, i certainly would have partaken, but when foraging through another person's kitchen, you make due.