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I follow a lot of chefs on social media, but most of the food they post pictures of, while fun to ogle, doesn't translate well for the home cook. Every once in a while, though, I see something that manages to be both beautifully simple and also inspiring. A recent example: I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and came across a photo from the Portland, Oregon, chef Jenn Louis of a salad of thinly sliced raw yellow summer squash and fennel, crumbled goat cheese, and dill. I couldn't shake the idea, so now, as part of our Easiest Summer Ever—a collection of seasonal recipes using no more than four main ingredients (not including pantry staples)—I've decided to rip it off wholesale.
The one tool I'd recommend having on hand for a salad like this is a good mandoline or vegetable slicer, since it makes such easy work of getting those elegant slivers, with consistently perfect results. You can check out our favorite inexpensive ones here.
Aside from that, it's as simple as it sounds. First, get your hands on some really nice young and tender summer squash—you know, the small ones, not the older, overgrown ones that have big spongy centers and tougher skin. A farmers market is often your best bet for quality summer produce, but some grocers and supermarkets with good produce sections could also be a useful source. Slice the squash really thinly on the mandoline, then follow it with a fennel bulb at the same thickness setting.
Add some chopped dill, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper, and give it all a good toss. Then crumble in some fresh goat cheese and give it one more very gentle toss before serving. (I try to minimize how much I toss the salad once the goat cheese is added, since I prefer that it stay in clumps and not turn into a milky coating on everything, which can happen if you stir a lot of moist ingredients repeatedly.)
The finished salad is a combination of tender, crisp, and creamy textures, and sweet, fragrant, and tangy flavors—it may be simple, but it tastes sophisticated enough to appear on any restaurant menu.
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