Grilled Zucchini Salad with Hazelnuts, Feta and Yogurt Mint Dressing

Today my children go back to school, and I return to my desk as well to assume responsibility of my work life, both online and off.

As a closing note to the end of our carefree summer days – which were really and truly relaxing – I threw together a laid-back dinner on the weekend. My sister and brother-in-law had stopped by for a visit, so we put the baby to bed early, lit the coals on the kettle grill and opened a bottle of my favourite late-summer wine.

In a way, it was an intimate version of our harvest dinner which I host every August. My cookbook has more details and all the recipes from this annual backyard event, but essentially it is a slow dinner in the garden to celebrate the bounty of summer. It’s the one time of the year when I bring the white tablecloth and stemware outdoors –  a simple way to add elegance to a table with little effort.

Harvest Dinner in the garden || Simple Bites

This being a harvest dinner and all, I highlighted some our own homegrown produce in the menu: yellow zucchini, fresh mint, assorted fresh tomatoes, basil, baby carrots, purple and green sage and lemon balm.

It’s been a splendid year for fresh herbs and I’m adding them into everything from cocktails to dessert. For this menu, I snipped everything table-side and sprinkled it liberally over the dishes.

Grilled Zucchini Salad with Hazelnuts and Feta, Yogourt Mint Dressing | Simple Bites

I’ve been working on developing a grilled zucchini salad ever since I enjoyed zucchini, chilies and almonds together in a salad at The Merchant Tavern in St. John’s. Zucchini is rampant right now and grilling is my absolute favourite way to serve it up for dinner.

My version combines slightly charred zucchini with toasted hazelnuts, crumbled feta cheese and plenty of torn mint and basil. It is topped off with a creamy yogurt mint dressing, which I like to drizzle on everything from grilled meats to salads of all kinds. The result is a late-summer salad that you can’t stop eating.

Grilled Zucchini Salad with Hazelnuts and Feta, Yogourt Mint Dressing | Simple Bites

The secret to this salad is to grill the zucchini over very hot coals and try to char them quickly without cooking them too much. You want them to have the smoky flavour of the charcoal, while still retaining some crunch to them. I also don’t oil or salt the slices of zucchini before grilling, which also helps them to char nicely without wilting them too much.

Toasting the hazelnuts is an absolute must; it transforms the nuts and adds an additional smokiness to the salad. As for the cheese, I had feta on hand, but you could use chevre or even a few spoonfuls of a soft labné in its place.

The real star of the salad is the fresh-picked mint and basil, however. You can’t have too much of either!

Harvest Dinner in the garden || Simple Bites

Dinner in the garden: it’s as simple as throwing a tablecloth over a picnic table and setting it like you would for Sunday dinner. Out here, it’s easy to let go of the little cares and frustrations of the day. They just don’t seem as worrisome amid the fragrant scents from the herb garden and the warm touch of the slanting sun.

Call me a romantic, but I think coming together for a meal al fresco, whether you are four or forty-four gathered at a table on the grass, is one of life’s simple pleasures.

Harvest Dinner in the garden tablescape || Simple Bites

In addition to the zucchini salad, we feasted on a simple sage-rubbed barbecued chicken with grilled lemon and a few grilled carrots. Look for that chicken recipe coming soon.

Our cherry tomatoes needed nothing save for a little bowl of flaky salt. They are perfect in their own way.

For dessert, I halved peaches and left them over the dying embers in the Weber. An hour or so later, we enjoyed them warm, drizzled with honey and crème fraîche. Gosh, I love August eating.

Grilled Zucchini Salad with Hazelnuts and Feta, Yogourt Mint Dressing | Simple Bites

Summer vacation may technically be over, but I’m going to be making this grilled zucchini salad with hazelnuts and feta well into the fall. Similar to my grilled sweet potato salad, it works as both a vegetable side dish or a salad. I’ve also been known to make a meal out of it, topped with grilled chicken breast and more of that creamy yogurt mint dressing. Delicious!

Grilled Zucchini Salad with Hazelnuts and Feta, Yogurt Mint Dressing
5.0 from 3 reviews
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Recipe type: Salad
Author:
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves/Yield: Serves 6
Ingredients
  • 1 cup hazelnuts
  • 4 Tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • small bunch fresh mint
  • 4-5 sprigs fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped preserved lemon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
  • 4 medium yellow and green zucchini
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta
Instructions
  1. Preheat a grill to 400F. I prefer a charcoal kettle barbecue, with the coals swept to one side for both direct and indirect heat.
  2. Preheat an oven to 350F and toast hazelnuts for 6-7 minutes or until light golden. Watch them closely so that they do not burn. Cool, and rub lightly with your fingertips to remove the skins. Reserve.
  3. Make the dressing by combining the plan yogurt, minced garlic and lemon juice together in a blender. Add about a tablespoon each of chopped mint and basil, along with half (1/4 cup) of the olive oil and preserved lemon, if using. Blend until smooth, then stop and scrape down the sides. Add the salt and pepper to the dressing. Drizzle in the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil with the blender running. Transfer to a small bowl or jar for holding.
  4. Slice the zucchini into 1/4-inch lengths. Grill on the hottest part of the coals, using a long-handled pair of tongs to turn the slices. Grills and temperatures will vary, but about a minute per side. Remove from heat before the zucchini gets too soft.
  5. Arrange charred zucchini on a serving platter and top generously with yogurt dressing. Sprinkle the hazelnuts and feta cheese on top. Tear a few generous handfuls of both mint and feta apart and sprinkle onto the salad just before serving.
  6. Serve warm, with additional dressing as a side condiment.
Notes
The dressing can be made up to two days in advance, but the flavours do intensify somewhat. I like it best made on the same day, while the herbs are fresh and green.

 

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée’s preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars – Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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Comments

  1. What a dreamy dinner setting, I love the fully set table out in the yard and I spy Nova 7. =) We’re having friends over for one last summer hurrah dinner and this salad looks perfect. Late August is my favourite eating month, so much goodness!

    • I love that you are toasting summer, too. PS> the grilled zucchini was every bit as good on the second day, only the nuts were a little soft. So it could work as a do-ahead, just dress it with nuts and feta at the end.

  2. I’ve been craving for grilled zucchinis since I ate them a few weeks ago with grilled halloumi, figs and peaches! You can be sure I am making your salad this week!! Hope you had a great birthday and bonne rentrée, Aimée ! (I liked the sound of it in French! It rhymes! ;))

  3. This is so lovely! It just makes me feel good!
    I have been wondering how Baby Alfie is doing. I haven’t seen any pictures of him for quite awhile!
    I thought your new cookbook would be out this fall. It was a low blow to learn that I’ll have to wait a year! My Mother, who is 100, really enjoys BROWN EGGS AND JAM JARS. When she comes over, I have it out for her to look at. She is especially taken with your adorable children–we all are! It is a beautiful, comforting book in every way.

    • Alfie is doing well, thanks for asking. He is crawling, eating very well and is a little ray of sunshine.

      Yes, my cookbook has been pushed back from a spring 2017 release to a fall 2017 release. But it will be worth the wait! We are polishing it and making it the best it can be. In the meantime, keep reading over here. 🙂

      Thank you for your kind words on BEJJ. I’d love to drop your mother a personal note. Would you please email me at aimee@simplebites.net and pass along an address I can use?

      Your comment made my day. Thanks so much for taking the time to write.

  4. Hey girl love the post! The salad looks really good!

  5. Your presentation skills are really good. I simply love your recipes and the way you present food is really appreciable. Please upload an easy recipe on how to make chicken nuggets at home!
    Stay Blessed
    Shiza

  6. I love this post! Dinner in the garden! Now that’s my kind of dinner!

  7. Made this tonight but, instead of grilling the zucchini (the grill was full of corn and Greek lamb burgers), shaved it on a mandoline. Awesome raw — now must try it grilled… with the 4000 squash in my yard!

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