I love new takes on ordinary, everyday things. It keeps life from becoming too boring, too mundane, too menial, too....... well, just too "every dayish". I enjoy a new hair style, a new lipstick, a new look in my home or a new route to ride my "black steed" (aka my bicycle). And I LOVE new takes and twists on everyday foods, like this Ribbons of Zucchini Mediterranean Salad - I think you will too!
The conception of this salad has been floating around in my head for several weeks. I was inspired by a picture of a salad with thin, ribbon-sliced zucchini in a magazine I looked at recently. I didn't care for the other components of the salad, but the picture got my brain "a-whirring"! I thought it was such a beautiful and fun presentation for everyday, ordinary, downtrodden zucchini. I mixed and matched several different ideas and finally came up with this Ribbons of Zucchini Mediterranean Salad using some of our favorite summer veggies. Along with the zucchini ribbons (easily done with a common vegetable peeler), the salad includes crisp peppers, red onions, ripe tomatoes, tiny green peas, Kalamata olives and Feta cheese all married together with a lemony herb dressing and finished off with a sprinkle of pine nuts.
A delicious dinner salad with sautéed chicken sausage.
The first time I tried the recipe, I added our favorite chicken sausage** to make a lean, high protein, healthy dinner salad. Other than a quick sautéing of the sausage, there is no cooking involved, making it a wonderful choice for these hot summer days. I also prepared it as a side salad for a family get-together, omitting the meat. Both ways, it was fresh and delicious, a perfect seasonal salad. Next time you see some forlorn, plain-jane zucchini at your grocery or farmer's market, think about this fun, delightful salad - oh, and by the way, your vegetable peeler will be thrilled to have a new title - "Chief Executive Ribbon Creator" (sounds so much more distinguished and important, don't you think?)!
Ribbons of Zucchini Mediterranean Salad
3 medium zucchini, ribbon-sliced horizontally with vegetable peeler* (or mandoline)
¼ cup fresh basil, finely chopped
¼ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
½ cup red bell pepper, diced
½ cup yellow or orange bell pepper, diced (small)
½ small red onion, diced (small)
1 cup tiny frozen peas
1 cup tomatoes, diced (medium)
¼ cup Kalamata olives, halved or quartered, depending on size
½-¾ cup Feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted - optional
freshly ground black pepper
For dinner salad - 4 links chicken sausage, your favorite**
1. Place zucchini, herbs, peppers, onions, and 1/4 cup dressing in a medium size bowl. Gently mix (I do this with my hands) to coat all vegetables with dressing. Refrigerate until ready to serve - this step can be done several hours ahead.
2. Just before serving time, remove zucchini/veggie combination from refrigerator and transfer to serving platter or bowl. Sprinkle with peas, tomatoes and olives and drizzle with more dressing, to taste. Finish salad off by sprinkling with the Feta and pine nuts, if desired. Serve slightly cool or at room temperature.
3. If serving as a dinner salad - Just before serving, slice chicken sausage into 1/4 inch slices, slice slightly on the diagonal. Heat a medium saute pan over medium high heat, add 2 teaspoons olive oil and swirl pan to coat bottom completely. Add sliced sausage and cook 1-2 minutes or until golden, then flip and repeat on other side. Remove from heat and add to salad.
Serves 6-8 as a side salad or 4 as a dinner salad
*To slice zucchini, first make sure your vegetable peeler is fairly sharp - the first time I tried this it was a pain (and a mess)! I realized that my vegetable peeler was quite old and dull. I purchased a new one and the slicing was a breeze; cut stem and base ends off of zucchini and place on a flat surface. Slice a thin strip off of one long edge and turn zucchini over so cut surface is now on the bottom. This gives you a flat surface so the zucchini won't roll. Using a vegetable peeler, cut thin strips or ribbons of zucchini. Slice 3 or 4 strips on the first side, then rotate back to other side and continue slicing until you get to the seedy middle and what's left is too thin to slice anymore. Discard the core.
**If you haven't tried chicken sausage you're missing out on a wonderful secret. Chicken sausages come in all kinds of flavor combinations, you need to try a few and find your favorites. There are several things I love about these sausages - they are low fat, most of the time between 3-5 grams of saturated fat and 110-160 calories per sausage. They usually have a ton of protein, anywhere from 12-18 grams! That means they keep you satiated for a long time! They are also just plain delicious and can be grilled, sautéed, used in pizzas, panninis, sandwiches, quiches, etc. etc. I always have some of these in my freezer. Currently, my favorite is the Three Cheese variety from Sam's Club (15 gm. of protein with only 130 calories).