Let me tell you what we are talking about here: very thin courgette slices and asparagus spears slightly grilled, over a bed of fresh lettuces (you can use rocket instead), with oven-dried tomatoes and goat cheese. All of it seasoned with some basil oil that we’re gonna prepare for the occasion. It sounds delicious, doesn’t it? Well, trust me, it tastes as good as it sounds.
This is the perfect salad for a special meal. Take it to the table in a flat serving plate where all the ingredients can be seen, and I guarantee you a wow moment between your invitees.
This recipe has been inspired in one of Yotam Ottolengui, a Palestinian chef that lives and offers great food in London. If you go to London, stop by one of its restaurants, they are a great experience for those who love food. I’m a big fan of its food philosophy, deliberately avoiding complicated cooking methods, where flavor matters more than presentation.
The only weak point in this recipe is that it takes some time to organize all the veggies preparation. The good news are that you can make that in advance and get everything ready until the moment of assembling and serving the salad. Keep the grilled courgettes, asparagus and oven-dried tomatoes in separate recipients in the fridge. The oven-dried tomatoes you can prepare them the day before. The grilled vegetables and the basil oil, 4 or 5 ours in advance.
Ok then, less talking and more cooking! Here we go!
A few notes
- To cut the courgettes in thin slices use a mandolin. If you don’t have one… you should! Trust me, you’ll use it more than you think!
- If you don’t like goat cheese, you can use some greek feta cheese instead.
- The original recipe uses this oven-dried tomatoes recipe, but you can use some preserved dried tomatoes instead (as long as they’ve been preserved in olive oil). It’s not the same… but it’ll make the trick.
- 300 g oven-dried tomatoes
- 45 ml olive oil
- 24 asparagus speers (you can use frozen asparagus speers too)
- 2 courgettes
- 150 g goat cheese (can be substituted by greek feta cheese)
- 100 g fresh lettuces (or 25 g rocket instead). You can add more or less according to your preferences.
- salt and pepper
- 75 ml olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 25 g basil leaves
- 1 pinch of salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- Prepare the oven-dried tomatoes following this recipe. It'll take 5 minutes of preparation and between 50 min and 1 hour of unattended baking.
- Trim the woody bases of the asparagus and blanch for 4 minutes in plenty of boiling water. Drain and refresh under cold water, making sure the spears are completely cold. Drain well again, then transfer to a mixing bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil and some salt and pepper.
- Slice the courgettes very thinly lengthwise, using a mandolin or a vegetable peeler. Mix with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and some salt and pepper.
- Place a ridged griddle pan on a high heat and leave there for a few minutes. It should be very hot. Grill the courgettes and apparatus, turning them over after about a minute. You want to get nice char marks all sides. Remove and leave to cool.
- Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Fry the manouri cheese for 3 minutes on each side or until it is golden. Place on kitchen paper to soak up the excess oil. Alternatively, chargrill the cheese on the hot griddle pan for about 2 minutes on each side.
- To make the basil oil, blitz all the ingredients in a blender until smooth. You might need to double the quantity for some blender blades to be effective. Keep any extra oil for future salads.
- To assemble, arrange the rocket, vegetables and cheese in layers on a flat serving plate. Try to build the salad up whilst showing all the individual components. Drizzle with as much basil oils as you like and serve.