When I think of summer I think of those long, hot days with their clear blue skies. The smell of sunscreen wafting through the air and the sound of thongs flip flopping over steamy footpaths. Its the never-ending queues at the local gelato shop and the sound that only comes with the heat, that shrill sound of cicadas.
However, if one thing is for certain, it calls for large, refreshing, crisp and crunchy platters of salads to be enjoyed alongside an array of Barbequed goodies. (Ah, Yes, the smell of someone else's BBQ sizzling away is always a mouth-watering affair) The laughter and clinking of plates and cutlery as everyone takes their seats on the deck to enjoy a meal together, watching the sun slowly disappear on yet another day hoping that a cool change may be on its way.
Its these memories that seem to stick in our minds, usually the ones that don't necessarily seem to be all that special at the time. its not until we look back and realise that these moments are what make our lives so full, not only in our hearts but in our bellies too!
I created this salad for Christmas Day. My inspiration? the colours of Christmas of course and letting the summer produce shine. It's quite a delicious concoction of charred asparagus mixed through ribbons of fresh zucchini and pistachios that have been caramelised in honey to add that extra special crunch. Those mouthfuls of bursting juicy goodness in the form of red grapes just add that little something extra. It will make a perfect partner for just about anything, be it lamb, pork, fish or even chicken. And any leftovers make the perfect lunch for the following day.
Serves a large crowd as part of a buffet or 4-6 people as a side
3 zucchini peeled into long ribbons (I used a peeler for this but if you have a mandolin you could also use this)
3 bunches of asparagus, woody ends removed and sliced in half
a good handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
a good handful of parsley, chopped
3/4 cup of pistachios
2 tbsp. honey
1/2 cup dried cranberries
punnet of red currants
a couple of good handfuls of red grapes
*I have tried to give the most accurate measurements, however as this salad is layered I will leave it up to you as to how much of each ingredient you use. I am actually quite bad at measuring when it comes to cooking as I tend to just throw a bit of this and a bit of that in as I go!
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
In small bowl or a jar with a lid, combine everything really well and taste.
In a large frying pan over a medium heat add a glug of olive oil and then add the asparagus, you may need to cook these in two batches depending on how big your pan is. Add a pinch of sea salt and continue to cook until starting to char. Add a grinding of pepper and remove from the pan.
In the same pan add the pistachios and cook these for a minute or so then add the honey, stirring until starting to caramelise, remove from the pan and lay them on a sheet of baking paper to cool down.
Get your hands on a beautiful big platter and then start layering each ingredient over the next, softly place the ribbons of zucchini down then some of the asparagus, a scattering of pistachios (you will want to eat all of these even before they make it onto the salad!!) mint, parsley, cranberries, red currants and the grapes. Then repeat one more time.
If you are taking this to a get-together, place the dressing in a jar and pour over the salad when you are ready to serve it. otherwise dress it straight away and enjoy every mouthful! Just don't tell anyone how many nuts you ate before hand.............