Summer descended unexpectedly on Connecticut last Sunday, crushing the morning’s chill under a balmy afternoon heat. The temperature jumped from mid-50s and rainy to 80 degrees and sunny, and everyone agreed that spring had ended; it was time to walk our dogs in flip flops and source our latest beach reads.
The warmer weather also signaled a menu change. Our collective imagination of what it means for a new season to begin affects our appetites, and suddenly my stomach growled for fresh salads, grilled fish, and the bright bounty of the season.
A roasted salad of fresh vegetables is the kind of recipe you prepare while the kids are playing in the sprinkler outside, and enjoy while sitting barefoot on the porch. You can vary the ingredients based on what’s growing relentlessly in your back yard (or what’s on sale at Big Y), and you can make this in the oven or on the grill.
In this version, zucchini, yellow squash, and eggplant are caramelized in a hot oven, then dressed with a punchy red-wine vinaigrette and creamy feta cheese. The result is sweet, acidic and a little bitter from the charred tips of the vegetables.
If you’re making this in the oven, be sure not to over-crowd the vegetables on the sheet pan; they have a high water content and will steam, not brown, if there are too many on one pan. If you’re making this on the grill, invite me over.
I served this salad with tuna steaks seared in a skillet and finished with a simple lemon-caper pan sauce. It would pair nicely with any type of fish or chicken, or even garbanzo beans for a vegetarian option.
Light candles during dinner, even though it’ll be hours until the sun sets, and open a bottle of rosé or a chilled, light-bodied red. We may not have expected the sudden change in season, but we’ll toast to summer’s welcome arrival.
The best of summer's bounty comes together in a zippy vinaigrette with creamy feta.
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 6-8 cups of your favorite summer vegetables all cut into large bite-size pieces
- 2 medium zucchini cut in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 1/2-inch slice
- 2 yellow squash cut in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
- 1 medium eggplant cut in half lengthwise, then crosswise into 1/2-inch slices
- 1 medium red onion halved then quartered
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Heat oven to 450 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with tin foil and place in the oven to pre-heat. Combine all of the ingredients for vinaigrette in a bowl or measuring cup; set aside.
Arrange zucchini, squash, eggplant, and onion on pre-heated baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast vegetables 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and slightly charred. Remove vegetables from oven, transfer onto a serving platter.
Sprinkle parsley and feta cheese over the vegetables, spoon vinaigrette on top, to taste (you may not use all of it).