I am really impressed by British/Irish chefs. Yotam Ottolenghi, Denis Cotter and now Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I had never heard of him before I saw praise for his new vegetarian cookbook, River Cottage Everyday Veg.
What I love most about these chefs is that they turn humble vegetables into something extraordinary. First, I tried Hugh’s quinoa salad with caramelized onions and zucchini that was a sleeper hit. I loved the sweetness from such simple ingredients. Then there was the Appaloosa Bean Summer Chili which used red wine with zucchini, red peppers and tomatoes to make a savoury chili.
Tell me which vegetable you like the least. Probably something local that comes up in overabundance in the summer. You can tolerate it in moderation, but week after week of the same vegetables can get boring. I would probably pick green beans. While I have made some great dishes with them, I don’t find them that versatile. Zucchini, on the other, doesn’t taste like much, but can be used in so many creative ways.
I was drawn to make Hugh’s tahini-dressed zucchini and green bean salad with sun-dried tomatoes as a spotlight to local, seasonal ingredients. I wasn’t sure it would be a filling meal, but green beans are beans and along with the lemon-tahini dressing, this voluminous salad was perfect.
While this may seem initially like a finicky salad, look at it as a main course to soothe your qualms. Relish in cooking each component to bring out its best: lightly sear the zucchini until golden, then dress in some lemon juice and chile flakes. Steam your green beans until tender crisp. Plate on top of your favourite baby greens, sprinkle with chopped sun-dried tomatoes and drizzle with your dressing. The dressing is nice and light, without being too oily or heavy (I reduced the oil and sugar since I used Meyer lemons). Enjoy this best as a warm salad directly after preparing it. Leftovers are nice cold when slathered in the dressing.
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon) [I used Meyer lemons]
zest from 2 lemons
1/3 cup fresh orange juice (from 1 orange)
1 tbsp olive oil
4 medium zucchini (800g), thinly sliced (3mm slices)
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon) [I used Meyer lemons]
1 tsp Aleppo chili flakes
3 cups green beans (300g), trimmed and chopped into 1″ pieces
8 cups mixed baby greens
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes
1. Begin by soaking your sun-dried tomatoes in boiling water. Drain, julienne, then set aside to cool.
2. Make your dressing by combining the garlic, tahini, lemon juice, lemon zest and orange juice. Stir well. Add sweetener to taste. I used Meyer lemons so I didn’t add any sweetener. Thin to desired consistency (I didn’t add any water or oil).
3. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Melt oil and lay down the zucchini slices in a single layer. Cook until golden brown, approximately 3-5 minutes on each side. You will likely have to do this in batches. Remove zucchini from the stovetop and place in a bowl. Toss with lemon juice and chili flakes and set aside.
4. Once all the zucchini has been browned, add 1/4-1/2 cup water to your skillet over high heat. Bring the water to a boil. Add the chopped green beans and steam/poach for 3-5 minutes until tender-crisp. Remove immediately and toss with the zucchini slices.
5. To prepare the salad, place mixed salad greens on a plate. Add the zucchini and green beans. Top with the sun-dried tomatoes. Drizzle with the dressing.