Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Summer on a Plate

Today's dish was inspired by some of the delicious green Summer vegetables that have just come in to season and are really fabulous right now - asparagus, green beans, peas and zucchini. This salad would work plated up individually as a light entree or lunch - or on a generous sharing platter as a change from your usual repertoire of Summer salads, to go with grilled meat or seafood. It would also be a beautiful vegetarian option for a BBQ or the Christmas dinner table. It is really easy to put together and tastes as good as it looks.

This salad has a great balance of flavours and textures - the crisp, light texture of the vegetables, the rich creaminess of the goat cheese, the tang of the simple chive vinaigrette dressing and the delightful freshness of the mint. Just perfect for a Summer menu.

I really adore Chevre (soft, creamy style goat cheese) but if you wanted to use the firmer aged goat cheese this would work just as well. I do think though that the younger, creamier style has a freshness that works particularly well with the lightness of the vegetables and the aromatics of the mint leaves. Of course if you detest goat cheese, feta would be a fine substitute.

We are heading to the South Coast for Christmas this year and this salad will definitely be on the menu while we are away. The vegetables will be easy to cook on the BBQ and it will be perfect as a light lunch by itself, or as an accompaniment to some fresh local seafood or a char grilled piece of lamb. It would also be great as a topping on some thickly cut, rustic sourdough toast.

I love the transition of the seasons when all the new produce starts to appear - out with the old and in with the new. It's easy to get in a bit of a rut - cooking the same stuff, but these new season ingredients always inspire me to try something new. To see what else is in season right now, check out the list on the right hand side of this page and get some inspiration too. In the meantime, here is my "Summer on a plate" salad to get you going.

Asparagus, Zucchini and Green Bean Salad
With Mint and Goat's Cheese

You will need:
For the salad - 1 bunch asparagus, 1 finely sliced spring onion, 2 smallish green zucchini, a generous handful or two of green beans, 1 cup fresh or frozen peas, About 60g Chevre (goat cheese), a handful of fresh mint leaves, a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper.

For the dressing - 2 tablespoons good quality olive oil, 1 tablespoon Sherry Vinegar, 2 teaspoons honey,  2 teaspoons finely chopped chives, 1 clove minced or super finely cut garlic (I do mine on a Microplane), salt and pepper. 

Method: First, make the dressing. Simply combine all of the ingredients and whisk together thoroughly until all combined. Put aside while you prepare the salad.

Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and cook the beans for about a minute until they start to soften. Drain them and run them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.

Cook the peas until tender (I just do these in the microwave - quick and easy) Set aside to cool.

Cut the woody, hard ends off the asparagus and then chop the asparagus in half. Slice the zucchini in diagonal slices.

Heat a grill or fry pan and add a small splash of olive oil and cook the the zucchini and asparagus in batches, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. They should just colour up a little and not be overcooked. You want them to retain a little firmness. Set aside.

Chop or crumble the goat cheese.

Assemble the asparagus, zucchini, onion, beans, mint and peas on a serving dish, then add the goat cheese. Drizzle over the dressing, top with a few extra mint leaves and serve.



  1. It sounds delicious! Would it work also with red wine vinegar?

  2. For sure - although I would use a bit less, as I find it is a lot more overpowering than the sherry one. Just taste it as you and adjust to taste. But sherry vinegar is great for dressings, lots of supermarkets have it now - look out for it.