Summer Squash Ribbons with Sage and Manchego
Many a summer lunch or light supper is built from what we pick from the garden or what’s beautiful at the farm stands, celebrating the fresh food and flavors this season of plenty has to offer. And now is the time for the slender, thin-skinned squashes to shine as brightly as their golden yellows and vibrant greens do in the hot sun.
I have a particular affinity for the yellow summer squash — so pleasant, there’s little need to fuss beyond slicing.
Thin ribbons, served raw, lend a mellow, soft sweetness to this lemon-dressed salad. Fresh sage adds depth, and shavings of Manchego a salty counterpoint. This version was served as a meal atop a socca flatbread with chives and a few leaves of arugula and baby beet greens.
For more color, try a combination of yellow squash and green zucchini, or sprinkle over a pinch of deep red sumac or smoked paprika before serving. A drizzle of vibrant green herb oil or deep dark aged balsamic is nice as well.
With much deference to its forebear, this salad is the new summer staple.
What’s in it for me?
The skin, flesh and seeds of yellow summer squash is loaded with antioxidant nutrients, including vitamin C and beta-carotene, and is particularly rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that play an important role in support of eye health, potentially decreasing risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
If you’re expecting a baby or plan to conceive in the near future, summer squash should be on your list of foods to eat. One cup meets 10% of your daily needs for manganese (another antioxidant nutrient), supporting functions of the brain and nervous system, structural integrity of the bones and connective tissues, normal blood-clotting, and production of sex hormones; and 7% of folate needs. Best known for its role in preventing birth defects of the brain and spine, research has also linked adequate folate to prevention of cardiovascular diseases and minimized risk of colorectal and cervical cancers.
Regular moderate intake of soluble pectin fiber — found in great quantities in summer squash — promotes satiety and digestive health, moderates blood sugars, and may help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. And with a 95% water content, summer squash is an excellent (+ very low-calorie) choice to keep hydrated on hot days.
Manchego, like other mature, hard cheeses (e.g., Parmesan and Pecorino, aged Gouda, cheddar, and blue cheeses), is a rich source of gut-friendly, immune-supporting probiotics, and bone-strengthening calcium and vitamin K. Also abundant in mature cheeses are polymines — proteins linked to improved health of eggs in women and sperm in men.
Additionally, Manchego has a very low lactose content. This is due in part to the aging process, and from being made of sheep’s milk, which has a lower overall percentage of lactose than cow’s milk.
Sage has plentiful antioxidant compounds, like rosmarinic acid which may reduce inflammatory responses in the body. Sage also contains vitamin A, mostly in the form of beta-carotene, and has antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Studies are also looking into the role it may play in reducing age-related memory loss, particularly in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.
Fresh produce shouldn’t be a mealtime afterthought. This bright and lively summer squash salad is speedy enough for a healthy weekday working lunch, with good looks that make it perfect as a refreshingly light side for an alfresco summer gathering.
Tell me… Are you flooded with squash? Plans to use them, or will you pawn them off on your neighbors?
- 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, from about 1 large lemon
- 2 Tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil
- kosher or flaky sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
- 1 pound small, slender summer squash, ends trimmed
- 8 fresh sage leaves, sliced into very thin strips (chiffonade)
- 1/2 cup (about 2 oz) Manchego cheese, shaved with a peeler
- In a large serving bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, just a pinch of salt, and a few cracks of black pepper. Set aside.
- Using a vegetable peeler or mandoline, make long, thin ribbons of the summer squash. Add the squash ribbons and sage to the bowl with the vinaigrette, and gently toss. Taste, and adjust seasonings, if needed. Garnish with the Manchego shavings, and serve immediately.
- If you'd like to serve the salad slightly chilled, place the serving bowl with the prepared vinaigrette into the refrigerator for a few hours before finishing the recipe.
To make it a light entree, serve it on socca (besan flour) flatbread as shown here, toss in cooked beans, lentils or slices of leftover cooked meat or poultry, top with grilled or poached fish, shrimp or tofu, or serve with halves of soft- or hard-boiled egg.
+ Swap slender zucchini for half of the yellow summer squash to make a more colorful salad.
+ Add toasted pine nuts, pistachios, chopped almonds or walnuts for crunch, a boost of protein and healthy fats.
+ Replace Manchego with any other hard grating cheese, such as Pecorino, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Sarvecchio, Asiago, etc.
+ Play with different seasonal herbs, like basil, oregano or marjoram, mint or thyme.
+ Serve the squash salad on a bed of mixed greens lightly dressed with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil, or toss a few arugula or spinach leaves in with the ribbons. In addition to, or in place of, the mixed greens, you could add cooked quinoa, farro, millet or other whole grain.
Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma Taste blog.
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