This was one of those shot-in-the-dark dishes that, through the miracle of presentation and some phenomena that must have included the stars and moon aligning, made it past the lips of BOTH daughter 1 and daughter 2 (who asked for seconds!) and left me, frankly, both surprised and giddily smug.
The definition of a seasonal vegetable here in the Northeast, zucchini are ridiculously prolific for two short months before retreating to greenhouses and other warmer climes. They are wonderful when harvested small — a pound at the most — and are tender with a pleasingly bitter finish.
Sautéed, fried, stuffed and baked, in a bread or gratin or strata…nearly all preparations call for baking a zucchini, and they can all be lovely. But there is one presentation that, I think, really allows the zucchini to shine for what it is, and that is thinly sliced and raw, with a simple dressing and even simpler adornments. A carpaccio.
It is here that I must pause and share that, despite the tasting rule, daughter 1 VASTLY prefers cooked veggies to raw. Other kids gobble up crisp carrot sticks. Not her, but dump them in a pot of boiling water and she’s a happy camper. This week alone I had to toss two Zip-Lock bags of fresh carrots and cucumbers that came home, uneaten, from school lunch.
So I wasn’t holding out hope when I served raw zucchini. Cooked zucchini rarely gets a second look, so why would its ugly step-sister the zucchini salad get invited to the ball? Why indeed. But this dish, like Cinderella, will get invited to the palace for keeps. Give it a try: it might be your Cinderella dish too, and who couldn’t use a little happily ever after these days?
1 small to medium zucchini (approximately 1 pound)
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons basil, thinly sliced in a chiffonade
Approximately 1 ounce of Parmigiano Reggiano, shaved from a wedge of cheese using a vegetable peeler
Start by thinly slicing the zucchini — I used an inexpensive mandolin that makes even slices quite quickly. Liberally salt the zucchini slices and place them in a colander to release a little moisture. After about 30 minutes rinse the zucchini, pat dry with a clean tea towel, and arrange overlapping slices on a serving platter.
Make the dressing by combining the lemon juice, olive oil and pepper into an emulsion and pour over the zucchini. Top with the cheese shavings and sprinkle the basil chiffonade over the finished dish.
Really, it’s that simple.
For variety you could add some toasted pine nuts or walnuts — two of my go-to salad additions — for crunch, or try a different cheese (I think a mild blue would work nicely with the zucchini).
Serves: 4 – 6
Parent rating: five stars. This is such a nice balance of flavors if properly dressed and so easy to make with ingredients that are fresh and abundant this time of year. I was thrilled the girls enjoyed it too.
Kid rating: four stars. Daughter 2 had two helpings and daughter 1 managed to eat three zucchini slices, which is more zucchini than I think she’s ever eaten, zucchini bread included. I think the cheese helped, but she even told me the next day that she liked the dish. We’ll try it again soon with more zucchini from the CSA.