Sun-drenched fig and zucchini salad

beach-06

I have been flirting with thoughts of other jobs, other countries. The big wide world, new faces, a different smell in the air. Maybe that travel bug rearing its head again.

These thoughts – idle fancies, what you will – are unsettling yet exciting. Unexpectedly they have also prompted me to look at my street, city, country with fresh eyes.

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Like the layers of light on a humid summer’s beach. So bright, impossibly bright, up close. Shimmering-pale-lilac-blue in the distance, the colours muted as though coming through a fog.

Cliched as it might be, this made me think of Dorothy Mackellar’s iconic poem as she describes –

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land –

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Wilful, with our legends of outlaws, and 146km of dead straight road across the Nullabor. Lavish, with super-abundant light, and summer’s fresh produce that seem to be ripening by the minute: berries, peaches, watermelons, figs, mangos, papayas, zucchinis, beetroot, okra.

During these hot, humid, languid days, summer fruit and veges can make the simplest snacks or meals. Like mangoes with a squeeze of lime and a splash of hot sauce; cucumbers with salt-smashed garlic, experiments with watermelon curry, Vietnamese pickled daikons.

Like this fig and zucchini salad.

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I first saw this recipe on Not Quite Nigella. It was one of those recipes that just had to be made straight away. We had a bag of figs and a handful of zucchinis, sharp gorgonzola, goat’s feta, and oppressive hot weather that holds out the promise of thunderstorms – soon, but not yet.

The first time I made it, we were out of balsamic vinegar (yikes). So I concocted a dressing with Chinkiang vinegar (a dark, glutinous rice vinegar with lots of wonderful flavours), some date palm syrup and black pepper. Just enough complexity to pick out zucchini’s buttery sweetness and make the figs sing. Contrasting with peppery gorgonzola and slivers of manchego, it was summer on a plate.

I made it again the next day, and managed a few photos.

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Both times, I didn’t add the labneh in the original recipe, and the second time I used goat’s feta instead of manchego. The salad tasted like it was just about perfect both times. Even piled on the plate any old how, the sight of figs tumbling over the zucchini ribbons was pretty enough for a dinner party table. As Lorraine says, low fuss and high impact. Isn’t that a hallmark of a great recipe?

While we are on the subject of parties, I’m sending this to Angie’s Fiesta Friday party. Last time we Aussie girls, Margot and I, were so raucous we almost stole the limelight from Johnny’s magenta onesie (!). Next time Margot and I will both turn up as Dame Edna – and possums, that’ll beat any ol’ onesie!

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After making the salad a couple of times, I find I like to sprinkle blue cheese over the salad at the last minute rather than muddy up the dressing. And if you’re using Chinkiang vinegar, a longer marinading time for the zucchini doesn’t hurt.

To end, the well-known lines from Mackellar’s poem about hers and my –

…sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.

fig-salad-08

Fig and zucchini salad, with gorgonzola and manchego cheese

(adapted from Not Quite Nigella)

Ingredients

2 zucchinis
2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar (or good Chinkiang vinegar)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus extra to drizzle
1 teaspoon honey (I used date palm syrup)
salt and pepper, to taste
4 ripe figs
50g/1.7ozs goat’s cheese (I used goats feta or manchego, and a smaller amount of gorgonzola picante)
A small ball of labneh or dollop of natural yogurt (I omitted this)
2 tablespoons dukkah (I omitted this)

Method

1. Make zucchini ribbons or noodles (ie, use a mandolin). Cut off the bottoms of the zucchini and make strips using the peeler by peeling from the top down to make one piece. Discard the first strip which is just skin. Place the zucchini in a bowl.

2. Whisk the vinegar, olive oil, honey (or syrup) together and pour over the zucchini. Allow to marinate for about three to four minutes.

3. While the zucchini is marinating, trim the very tops from the figs and cut the figs into quarters or eighths. Cut up the blue cheese into small pieces and roll the labne in the dukkah.

4. Twirl the zucchini around a fork and set on a plate. Top with figs. If using gorgonzola, we would prefer to cut it up into small bits and sprinkle over the zucchini, likewise with goat’s feta. If using manchego cheese, just shave tiny slivers. Grind salt and pepper to tatse.

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56 thoughts on “Sun-drenched fig and zucchini salad

  1. Ngan R. 22 February 2014 at 2:14 am Reply

    Such a lovely post and salad! I almost forgot it’s summer elsewhere as there is still frost on the car when I leave in the mornings! 🙂 But when summer does come, I’ll be replicating your beautiful salad here.

    • saucygander 27 February 2014 at 10:01 pm Reply

      Thank you for the lovely comment! We are heading into autumn next week, so this is my farewell to summer. We will be living vicariously through other people’s summer images and recipes soon!

  2. Andj 22 February 2014 at 2:18 am Reply

    This salad looks simple, refreshing delicious and it has such unexpected flavors! I can’t wait to give this a try. Thank you!

    • saucygander 27 February 2014 at 10:05 pm Reply

      When i first saw the recipe, i also thought he flavours were a little surprising. But they are so good together, and very adaptable too! 🙂

  3. lapetitecasserole 22 February 2014 at 2:29 am Reply

    Saucy that’s impressive… reading your post and looking at your photos i had the confirmation of how much I miss summer! I’ve marked your recipe, I’m sure that salad will be amazing for a summer meal or for a picnic!

    • saucygander 27 February 2014 at 10:10 pm Reply

      Summer is leaving us behind, so it must be heading closer to your part of the world! This is a lovely salad, I made it twice in a week, which is very unusual for me. 🙂

  4. Alex 22 February 2014 at 2:37 am Reply

    This sounds absolutely delicious. My travel bug has been buzzing around my head out recently also and these beautiful beach pictures are making me anxious for a trip!

    • saucygander 27 February 2014 at 10:17 pm Reply

      Ahh travel bugs. Mine are still buzzing around, maybe it is time for a trip! Thanks for visiting!

  5. Liz 22 February 2014 at 3:12 am Reply

    beautiful! And I LOVE that you just happen to have Chinkiang vinegar. (not that I know what it is, but am impressed it was on your self) My kind of cook! Your surfboard photo contrasts sharply with the 2 feet of snow I see out my window. Grateful that you bring sunshine my way–thanks! Back to the salad: stunner. Simple, really, but looks so sophisticated on the plate.

    Going to go off on a bit of a tangent to say that I don’t get why people settle for so-so packaged food or meals out when it’s not difficult to make a pretty salad like yours. Why why why do folks settle for less?

    • saucygander 27 February 2014 at 10:25 pm Reply

      Liz, your last point isn’t a tangent at all, preparing dinner can be so easy, and so much better than takeaways or TV dinners. Some weeks, I don’t get home till dinner time (or later!) so we end up eating out, but I start to miss home made meals pretty soon.

      This is our last week of summer, I’m missing it already! Though looking forward to some hearty braises in the cooler weather. But then, this salad is so good, we will still see it on the autumn dinner table.

  6. yummychunklet 22 February 2014 at 6:02 am Reply

    Oh, the figs look wonderful. Yum!

    • saucygander 27 February 2014 at 10:27 pm Reply

      Thank you! Almost our last summer figs, sigh.

  7. Fiesta Friday #4 | The Novice Gardener 22 February 2014 at 6:05 am Reply

    […] Saucy […]

  8. Karen 22 February 2014 at 7:18 am Reply

    What a beautiful plate of goodness…I can’t wait until we have figs so that I can try the salad.

    • saucygander 27 February 2014 at 10:28 pm Reply

      Thank you! I hope you do try the salad as it is so simple yet wonderful.

  9. tinywhitecottage 22 February 2014 at 8:55 am Reply

    Gorgeous salad! Johnny’s magenta onesie is a tough one to outdo! And don’t tell me he’s going to wear a loin cloth tonight!

    • saucygander 22 February 2014 at 9:14 am Reply

      Bahahaa! A loin cloth *would* be paparazzi worthy!!

      • tinywhitecottage 22 February 2014 at 9:21 am

        hehehehe. Indeed. Word on the street, he is. You didn’t hear it from me though. 😉

  10. ladyredspecs 22 February 2014 at 9:17 am Reply

    I travel often, I have insatiably itchy feet, but this wonderfully diverse country we call home always draws me back with a greater appreciation. There is no where better!!! We are fortunate to have wonderful fresh seasonal ingredients. I love your late summer salad!! Thankfully autumn has come to visit Melbourne, a blessed relief!

    • saucygander 27 February 2014 at 10:32 pm Reply

      Oh I know what you mean, something about our country stays with you and nowhere else is quite like home!
      I also love your salad recipes, cool and refreshing salads have been a life saver this year!

  11. The Novice Gardener 22 February 2014 at 9:18 am Reply

    Watch out, he’s coming in his chamois. Can’t tell yet what color. But I think your Dame Edna might have a slight edge. And I hear he’s also bringing a salad, made of some bright fruits. Ya got some serious competition, Saucy. Although figs almost always beat other fruits. Mmm… this got my mouth water at first sight! Love it! XOXO

    • saucygander 27 February 2014 at 10:34 pm Reply

      Thank you! I think Johnny’s costume should be a regular Fiesta feature from now, he’s a real head turner!

  12. Gather and Graze 22 February 2014 at 9:19 am Reply

    Loved everything about this post Saucy… gorgeous photos and the most delicious version of summer on a plate! I think it’s natural to be craving travel and new opportunities at this time of year… the days are long… the sun sits high… relaxing weekends of sitting outside contemplating, idealising and conversing…
    Come winter though there’s nothing better than bunkering down at home, glass of red in hand, giving the oven a work-out producing comfort food to warm the heart and mind.
    Hope you figure out life’s next adventure – so exciting to be pondering these things! 🙂
    Happy Fiesta Friday and hope you and Mr Gander have a wonderful weekend!

    • saucygander 27 February 2014 at 10:40 pm Reply

      You are so right, these long summer evenings, talking to friends til all hours, are definitely encouraging dreams of new, exciting things. But then I look around and there are many things I love about home, that it can be hard to imagine really going away. Especially if it means moving away from these figs!! 🙂

  13. Patty Nguyen 22 February 2014 at 10:37 am Reply

    Wow, your salad looks wonderful!

  14. Eha 22 February 2014 at 12:11 pm Reply

    ‘I love her far horizons.
    I love her jewel sea,
    Her beauty and her terror,
    The wide brown land for me’ . . .

    One of my very favourite Australian poems. Thank you for quoting it! Absolutely love the salad [somehow missed it at Lorraine’s!!] ~ love your version and since I eat salads in this wonderful land of ours thru’ all the four seasons it will be made when I can next access the ingredients . . . travel: oh methinks most Aussies get ‘rock fever’ at times in spite of the size of the country – but then we all end back – that is almost a given 🙂 !

    • saucygander 27 February 2014 at 10:42 pm Reply

      Yes, yes and yes – to our favourite poem, the ‘rock fever’, and always coming back home! 😀

  15. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella 22 February 2014 at 12:40 pm Reply

    Ooh I’m so thrilled that you liked this salad! And your adaptions sound absolutely perfect (and it’s so adaptable too!). I’m off to share your blog post with my facebook readers. Thanks Saucy! x

    • saucygander 27 February 2014 at 10:45 pm Reply

      Yay! Thanks, your recipes are awesome!

  16. Johnny Hepburn 22 February 2014 at 12:42 pm Reply

    Loincloth?! Never! Although, I do have great pins. Gosh, that made me laugh. I’m not quite sure where tinywhitecottage got the idea from. Although, I did mention a chamois – but we use those to clean with. Hahaha! How funny.
    Ah, can understand your hankering after new boundaries. Or is it something the coast does to me. Always wanting to see beyond that horizon. Actually, I think it’s partly due to living so close to France and not wanting to be in the UK anymore.
    Oh, and did you manage to squeeze into your Dame Edna frock? Bet it looks even better on you!

    • saucygander 27 February 2014 at 10:46 pm Reply

      I was just saying to Angie that your costume should be a regular fiesta friday feature.
      It’s Mardi Gras here this week, so I’ll have to think of something suitably, well, fabulous.

  17. chefjulianna 22 February 2014 at 2:40 pm Reply

    Great post, but it makes me want to flee the Canadian winter I always struggle through! I guess I could make your gorgeous salad and pretend that is is summer here!! Your salad is speaking to me – all of my favourite ingredients!

    • saucygander 27 February 2014 at 10:49 pm Reply

      You could! And this is a gorgeous salad, on its own or with other heartier dishes. I always thought winter in the northern hemisphere is so beautiful, I guess the grass is greener on the other side. Thanks for the lovely comment!

  18. Coffee and Crumpets 22 February 2014 at 3:34 pm Reply

    The figs look gorgeous! The whole plate is light and summery and perfect. The photos of the beaches are pretty awesome too as I sit in my cold, snowy landlocked Colorado. I however, do have some beautiful snowy Rocky Mountains to gaze upon.

    • saucygander 27 February 2014 at 10:53 pm Reply

      I have loved every photo of the Rocky Mountains, and it sounds like a pretty great place to visit. So glad you liked the salad!

  19. Food and Forage Hebrides 23 February 2014 at 2:26 am Reply

    I feel warmer just reading this post, it radiates summer. Delightful and elegant salad and one to add to my summer recipe list. Thanks.

    • saucygander 27 February 2014 at 11:07 pm Reply

      Thank you! Lorraine’s recipe is so simple and adaptable, I hope you will give it a try.

  20. Noony 23 February 2014 at 11:43 am Reply

    Amazing. I don’t know many things that can top fresh fig and cheese.

    • saucygander 27 February 2014 at 11:21 pm Reply

      They are wonderful ingredients, aren’t they? 😀
      Thanks for visiting!

  21. Baking With Gab 23 February 2014 at 3:26 pm Reply

    This salad looks delish (NGN is always a trustworthy source for recipes!) and your photography is gorgeous! I think many people in Australia take for granted how amazing the country is – I love that you acknowledge your desire to travel while still celebrating the great country we live in 😀 Also, interweaving Mackellar’s words with your own – glorious idea!

    • saucygander 27 February 2014 at 11:23 pm Reply

      Thank you for the lovely comment! In a funny way, thinking about travelling has actually helped me to remember how great our country is, and Mackellar’s poem just naturally came to mind! 😀

  22. lovinghomemade 24 February 2014 at 9:24 am Reply

    Looking at your photos I can’t see you leaving anytime soon! Your salad sounds amazingly delicious.

    • saucygander 27 February 2014 at 11:24 pm Reply

      If I leave, I will definitely come back, and probably sooner than later. The salad was lovely! 🙂

  23. Queen Sashy 25 February 2014 at 5:49 am Reply

    We are getting hammered with snow and never ending winter here in NYC, and when I look at your wonderful salad and the photos — life is very unfair 🙂 And, all the very best in your thought process and the future prospects. Cheers!

    • saucygander 27 February 2014 at 11:25 pm Reply

      Thank you! If it’s any consolation, summer is leaving us being and heading your way! 😀

  24. simplyvegetarian777 26 February 2014 at 3:23 am Reply

    Wat a refreshing and delicate looking salad. Wile I am shivering here in cold, your pictures and salad warmed me up.

  25. Mary Frances 26 February 2014 at 9:31 am Reply

    What a lovely looking salad! Now I can’t wait for summer!

    • saucygander 28 February 2014 at 1:29 am Reply

      Thank you, summer is heading your way!

  26. laurasmess 27 February 2014 at 2:08 am Reply

    I had to memorize that Mackellar poem in primary school and I still remember every word! It completely, utterly stuck! Love the look of this simple but elegant salad. I definitely want to try it with the last of this season’s fresh figs. So gorgeous! xx

    • saucygander 28 February 2014 at 1:50 am Reply

      Laura, I hope you do try this salad, I think you’ll love it! It’s simple, elegant, and the mix of flavours was spot on. I read that Dorothy Mackellar wrote that poem when she was home sick in London, perhaps no wonder it struck a chord when I was/am thinking about travelling overseas!

  27. Laurie Nguyen 28 February 2014 at 8:07 am Reply

    Your salad looks both beautiful and delicious!

  28. thesociableweavers 1 March 2014 at 10:28 am Reply

    great photos!

  29. deliciouslynell 11 March 2014 at 11:13 am Reply

    Magnificent! Those photos are beautiful!

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