Yellow summer zucchini and purple basil salad

September is all about bright colors and abundance. It’s also about sun-ripened vine tomatoes and the delicate, intensely yellow zucchini. While the days of Indian summer are still ahead, I am doing just two simple things: cooking on the stove as little as possible and stuffing my kitchen with bunches of herbs and tomatoes for as long as it lasts.

The following recipe paints a picture like a suggestion. In fact, there are no steadfast rules to this salad.  Follow the recipe below if you will; but see it above all else as a leisurely collection of simply beautiful ingredients paired on a plate. To my mind this is the perfect kind of recipe.

Ingredients

  • Two freshly harvested yellow zucchini
  • Four ripe tomatoes in the color of your choice
  • Fresh mint, including some blossoms
  • A few stalks of flowering dill
  • A handful of fresh purple basil
  • One burrata weighing 250 grams
  • Or simply replace the burrata with a soft goat’s cheese
  • Approximately two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper

Bring the burrata (or other cheese you may have chosen) to room temperature, and preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cover an oven platter with parchment paper. Wash the zucchini and cut off the ends and tops. Rinse the tomatoes in a bowl of cool water and set aside. Pick the basil leaves from their stalks. Seek out your favorite salad bowl or platter and set the table because this salad is composed in a matter of minutes.

Slice the zucchini lengthwise into ribbons with a mandoline or a cheese slicer and layer them on the oven platter. Sprinkle the sliced zucchini with just a bit of sea salt and bake them about 8-12 minutes depending on their thickness. The zucchini ribbons are perfectly done when they have just barely lost their rawness and the edges are beginning to brown. Take the zucchini out of the oven and allow to cool.

Meanwhile remove the core of the tomatoes with a paring knife. Slice the small ones in half and cut the larger tomatoes into wedges or thickish slices. Arrange the zucchini on a platter, as if they were petals of a sunflower. Scatter the tomatoes over the zucchini. Tear the burrata into bite-sized chunks and tuck it into the platter next to the tomatoes.

Sprinkle the ingredients with a good pinch of sea salt flakes, some freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil. Top off your efforts with fresh purple basil leaves and some dill flowers. If you are in the mood, add freshly torn mint leaves as well. Serve this colorful combination with fresh bread or simple salad leaves. Above all else, take the time to taste the summer in the simplest of ingredients!

Suggested combinations

Make this salad the centerpiece of a picnic or easy dinner.

Notes

Burrata is a beautiful fresh cheese that originates from the region of Puglia in southern Italy. It is not easily available outside of the region and this is why I sometimes emulate the creamy, buttery texture and flavor of burrata by doing the following.

Tear a fresh mozzarella into bite-sized pieces. Spoon crème fraîche or sour cream over the mozzarella and stir gently. Chill the creamy mozzarella mixture at least an hour so that the cream can soak into the mozzarella. Serve the mozzarella and cream as above or use it to top your next home-baked pizza.

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