Monday, July 12, 2010
Every summer there always comes a point where there seems to be more zucchini than we know what to do with. Because they are one of the easiest fruits (yes, I did mean to say fruits... more on that in a bit) to grow in temperate climates, many farmers and home gardeners end up with an overwhelming abundance of zucchini. I'm sure we have all been in the situation where someone has literally begged you to take some zucchini off their hands, or perhaps you were the one doing the pleading. Either way, by mid-summer, when we all have baked 17 zucchini breads and counting, I think we all could use a few new zucchini recipes to add into the mix.
So, getting back to what I mentioned before, zucchini, although regarded as a vegetable in the culinary world, botanically it is a fruit. The zucchini itself is actually the ovary of the female zucchini flower (I know, crazy stuff, right?). The flowers themselves happen to be edible and quite delicious as well. I haven't seen any zucchini flowers at my green market yet this year but am really hoping they make an appearance soon (I just love stuffing them with basil and ricotta cheese and pan frying them in a little butter). But, whether you are eating one, or both, parts of the plant, you are consuming several important nutrients, as zucchini are a good source of vitamin A, folate and potassium.
Super fresh zucchini is delicious raw and does not need much to turn it into a heavenly side dish. In this dish, I thinly slice the fresh zucchini (carpaccio style) with a vegetable peeler and dress it lightly with high-quality extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice. It is garnished with toasted almonds, fragrant fresh mint and shaved Pecorino cheese. The almonds add a nice crunch and the Pecorino adds a slight tang. I used Pecorino Sardo from Murray's Cheese Shop in the West Village, but any young Pecorino works beautifully. Just try to avoid an aged Pecorino, as the it may overwhelm the subtle flavor of the raw zucchini.
Serves 4 as a side
3 medium (or 4 small) zucchini
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
handful fresh mint, chopped or chiffonade
3 ounces Pecorino cheese
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste
Using a vegetable peeler, carefully shave strips lengthwise down the zucchini. Arrange slices on a platter and drizzle lemon juice and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with almonds, Pecorino cheese and fresh mint.