Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Raw Zucchini Salads

My love affair with zucchini can be traced to when I was sixteen and living with a host family near Venice for the summer. My family had a beautiful garden with bean and tomato vines, and, conveniently, zucchini plants. They used to go out to the garden and pull fresh zucchini off the vines, and zucchini fritto became an immediate favorite. I also fell in love with fresh zucchini blossoms (and was thrilled when a colleague from my department in St. Louis gave me a head's up that a local pizzeria named Katie's was offering a special pizza with zucchini flower). I have cooked zucchini in a lot of different ways - fried, sauteed, as a soup, combined with pasta and shrimp - but I have never been excited about raw zucchini. The only time I had ever really had this was as strips sometimes served with a dip at a party alongside carrots and celery. But recently, while staying with wonderful friends in the French countryside, my eyes were opened to the possibilities of raw zucchini. My friend Miranda made this simple salad, which we devoured on their patio overlooking the Seine on the last day of winter, and inspired me to make a variation. I offer both here:

Miranda's Zucchini Salad with Pine Nuts
Ingredients: 
2 large fresh zucchini
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons pine nuts

1. Toast pine nuts in a dry frying pan.
2. Slice zucchini very thinly and layer in slightly overlapping rows.
3. Sprinkle toasted pine nuts over zucchini and salt and pepper to taste
4. Pour balsamic vinegar over plate.
5. Enjoy!

And here's my variation:

Zucchini and Tomato Salad with Brin d'Amour Cheese
Ingredients:
1 small zucchini
1 cup of grape tomatoes
2 cups of fresh spinach
1 tbl olive oil
2 tbl white wine vinegar
1 large chunk of Brin d'Amour cheese

Directions:
1. Slice zucchini into very thin rounds
2. slice each tomato in half
3. On a plate arrange spinach, tomatoes, and zucchini together
5. Add some thin slices of Brin d'amour cheese (known affectionately by me and my fellow Terra fellows in Giverny this past summer as the love cheese - check out this website: http://www.fromages.com/cheese_library_detail.php?id_fromage=58). This sheep's milk cheese is encrusted with rosemary, thyme, and other herbs and is a delicious addition to this salad.
6. Top with a bit of olive oil and white wine vinegar.
7. Enjoy with fresh baguette!


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