PART I: RAW
Admit it. You're sick of them already. For the first week you're ecstatic: the daily harvesting of the small and delicious squash, the blossoms stuffed and fried, the very picture of summer abundance, living proof that even you can grow a vegetable, and a flourishing one at that. And then you forget to look at your beloved plant for a couple of days and lo and behold, you have 4 zucchinis the size of baseball bats. We have three plants in our backyard, and we've stayed pretty on top of harvesting. Still, I find myself opening the fridge and sighing deeply with resignation. Another meal, another zucchini. It's hard to stay excited and inspired by the same ingredient no matter how versatile it is. But I will try in these next three posts to get myself and you re-excited about good old, dependable, prolific, adaptable zucchini. There will be one recipe for each stage of the fruit: one for the baby size, one for the mid-sized and one for the sleeping giant zucchini, so that none of your harvest goes to waste.
My favorite way to eat zucchini is raw, harvested young, when they are tiny, no longer than a couple of inches and about the width of two of your fingers. Sliced very thinly they are crunchy, slightly nutty, and the perfect vehicle for lemon, good olive oil, and a mild cheese. The other day I prepared them in a carpaccio-like salad, alternating the paper thin slices with equally thin rounds of lemon cucumbers and armenian cucumbers. Add a little cheese and whatever fresh herbs you have on hand--basil, dill, mint, parsley, tarragon, or all of them--and you have yourself a delicious (and maybe home grown and harvested) lunch or side dish. Eat up, there is more on the way!!!
Raw Zucchini & Cucumber Salad
2 small zucchini
1 or 2 cucumbers
juice and zest of one lemon
zest of one orange
a handfull of basil, chopped
a few mint leaves, chopped
a few sprigs of Italian parsley, chopped
a handful of multi-colored nasturtiums, chopped
1/4 cup really good olive oil
1 shallot peeled and minced
a splash of rice wine or champagne vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
optional: a mild chevre or, for a vegan option, chopped toasted almonds to garnish
Very carefully, using a mandolin, slice the zucchini into paper thin rounds. If it is very hot and dry out, cover the slices with a damp paper towel while you tend to the rest of the ingredients.
Slice the cucumbers into paper thin rounds and set aside, covering with a damp towel if needed.
In a small bowl whisk together the shallots, lemon zest, lemon juice, a pinch of salt and a splash of vinegar. Let sit for ten minutes.
Alternating between zucchini and cucumber, lay the slices out on each individual plate or on a large serving plate. Each round should slightly overlap the one beneath it.
Whisk the olive oil into the dressing and taste. Adjust as needed. Drizzle the salad(s) with the dressing, coating lightly but well. Sprinkle the chopped herbs and nasturtiums all over the salad. If you are using goat cheese add generous hunks here and there on top of the slices. Sprinkle the whole salad(s) with orange zest.
Finish with good sea salt and cracked black pepper.