Zucchini has never inspired me much, until this summer, and it is this great one bowl Lemon Feta Zucchini Salad I have to thank for it. It's such a simple salad, but the flavors come together in a big way. Lemon juice and zest offer a bracing acidity and zip, feta adds a salty creaminess, and pine nuts offer a grounding buttery, component. Big cracks of black pepper add a ton of character. Mix it all together in one serving bowl-- so efficient and tidy! This salad is delightful with a multitude of foods, especially anything grilled, or all on its own.
The autumnal equinox is only 16 days away, but zucchini will be with us for yet a while. Nearly all applications (except, maybe, a chocolate cake with zucchini hidden in it) are better with smaller young zucchini. However, don't be afraid to use the big boys of early autumn in this dish. The bigger squashes will need lengthwise halving or quartering and seed removal, but will tenderize nicely with a little marination from the dressing.
Many people tend to get really busy as September gets underway, and this speedy one-bowl lemon feta zucchini salad takes about 15 minutes to make. Snuggle it next to a sliced roasted pork tenderloin for a complete meal in 30 minutes flat. The leftovers will make a nice lunch the next day.
Here's how I'll sequence it: Preheat the oven to 425°. Wipe the tenderloin dry with a paper towel and generously salt and pepper it. In a small bowl, mix two tablespoons Dijon or grainy mustard, 2 tablespoons honey, and 1 teaspoon onion powder, if you have it. Spread half the mixture all over the pork tenderloin, place it in a large cast iron skillet or on small baking sheet, and roast it in the hot oven for 16 to 22 minutes. It should feel firm but with some give when you press it with your finger. The internal temperature should be between 140°-145°. (I remove mine from the oven at 140° to ensure it is juicy, as the temp will raise another 5 degrees while it rests.) Allow the tenderloin to rest under a foil cover for ten minutes. Slice and serve with the remaining half of the mustard sauce.
While the tenderloin is roasting, make the zucchini salad except the garnishes. Set it aside. Once the roast is sliced, give the salad a last toss, top it with the garnishes, and voila! Dinner is served.
The batch you see in these photos uses a mix of yellow and green zucchini, but one or the other delivers the same goodness if that's what you have. Slicing it thinly but not too thinly lets the slices hold up to a stir. A thickness of about 1/8" is your aim. The zucchini will absorb your nice dressing without wilting at this thickness. This is the tool I love to use to get even, quick slices.
A heavy dose of cracked black pepper really makes this dish, so don't hold back. Fresh basil and avocado are optional but delicious additions, but not necessary. If you have them use them; if not, don't worry.
Add the rest of the ingredients directly to the bowl without dirtying a single measuring cup or spoon. This is truly a one-bowl wonder of tidiness!
A note on toasting pine nuts: I wish I had a dollar for every time I've burnt a batch of pine nuts. Kitchen multi-tasking can be a detriment when it comes to nuts. I used to put them on a small baking sheet and pop them into the toaster oven for 6-8 minutes. Sometimes they turned out perfect, other times like mini charcoal briquets. Please take my advice and take the very few minutes it takes to toast them in a small skillet over medium heat. Shake the pan often to let them toast evenly. Stay right there! Notice their change in color and aroma. By all means, do not walk away from the pan. Relax and hang out a minute. Toasting nuts is a definite Be Here Now task.
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