This towering stack of layered yellow zucchini, heirloom red tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and basil pesto is the happy result of farmer’s market inspiration.
By Maya Parson
On a recent road trip to Nashville, Tennessee, we stopped at the farmer’s market to buy some peaches. We left with a couple pounds of fruit…and one yellow zucchini. The farmer said it was the best zucchini he’d ever grown. How could I say no? When we got home, I sautéed it up (olive oil, sea salt, onions) and the farmer was right. It was as close to sublime as a zucchini can get: nutty, buttery and eat-every-last-bite delicious.
That trip to Nashville got me thinking (ok, obsessing) about the unsung virtues of the yellow zucchini. First, it’s better tasting than its green sibling. And, compared to the summer squash, it’s downright sexy: a bit exotic, with a firmer texture and more succulent mouthfeel. It’s also far more festive; yellow zukes are canary yellow and hold their color beautifully when cooked.
Before I’d even found my next yellow zucchini, I’d already decided what I had to make: A Nashville Capri salad! This towering stack of layered yellow zucchini, heirloom red tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and basil pesto is the happy result of that inspiration.
- Two yellow zucchini (approximately 8 inches or 20 cm each), sliced into ¼ inch (2.5 cm) rounds
- Two or three small tomatoes, sliced in ¼ inch (2.5 cm) rounds
- Two medium-sized (2-inch or 5 cm round) balls fresh mozzarella, sliced into ¼ inch (2.5 cm) rounds (Note: You may need to trim cheese with a knife or kitchen shears to match the diameter of the tomatoes and zucchini. Don't worry: it doesn't have to be a perfect match!)
- ½ cup (125 ml) pesto (your own recipe or mine -- see note in instructions)
- Slice zucchini and saute over medium-high heat until softened and lightly browned.
- Season with salt to taste.
- Neatly layer zucchini, tomatoes, cheese and pesto as you like, beginning and ending with zucchini.
- Garnish with sprigs of fresh basil or a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts.
- Serve immediately.
- In food processor or by hand, mince ½ clove of garlic.
- Mix in ⅓ cup (75 ml) olive oil.
- Chop or mix in 3 Tablespoons (45 ml) pine nuts (or walnuts), ¼ cup (59 ml) grated Parmesan cheese, and mix or pulse until coarsely blended.
- Add 1 packed cup (225 ml) fresh basil and process or chop until pesto is smooth and creamy.
- Season with salt if desired.
- Note: This recipe requires a somewhat thicker pesto than would normally be used for tossing with pasta. If you use your own pesto recipe, just be a little more stingy than usual with the olive oil and/or add some extra pine nuts. You want something more like a spread than a runny sauce.
Maya Parson entered the world of food journalism as an ice cream taste tester for her local newspaper at age eight. She later pursued a career in cultural anthropology – happily feasting on farm cheeses, fresh corn tortillas and a lot of rice and beans during her field research in Central America. Maya eventually settled in the other “central America” – the U.S. Midwest – where she enjoys cooking with farm-fresh foods and writing about food, culture and the culinary arts. She is the editor of Edible Michiana Magazine and can also be found on her blog, Cultured Grub.