I never used to like zucchini. Not surprising, given that my only experience of zucchini as a child was those overcooked seedy rounds. Marcella Hazan turned me onto the beauty of zucchini. You cut it lengthwise, cook it till just done, and pair it with parmesan, or mix it in with risotto.
It was a revelation. Zucchini has a beautiful flavor, almost floral.
But I still find it a challenge.
I grilled some the other day, and it just wasn't right, too vegetal. It tasted like green.
So last night I was searching for new zucchini options (we are deep into zucchini season, and the market was flooded) when I happened upon zucchini carpaccio.
This is so beautiful, so simple. You have to try it. In reality, the flavors are mostly non-zucchini...it is a showcase for beautiful olive oil, good grey salt, some basil and the best parmesan. But it still speaks a zucchini language, underneath. It whispers zucchini, as only a true italian can.
(adapted from Gourmet 2003)
1 zucchini, very fresh
glug of olive oil, about 2 T.
sprinkle of grey salt or fleur de sel
sprinkle of fresh ground black pepper
fresh basil or mint
pine nuts (if desired)
Only make this if you have beautiful zucchini. And by all means use really good extra virgin olive oil (so good that you'd eat it alone on toast). My favorite is Frantoia (which you can get at Big John's PFI) The best cheese too....reggiano is my favorite, but anything hard and sharp would work. Grana padano would be good too. It has to be fresh basil (or mint, something light). And definitely fresh lemon juice.
Cut the zucchini on a mandoline at a slight angle as thin as you can. Mandolines are a life-saver---invest in one. There are cheap japanese ones that will run you $30.
Lay the slices out on a plate. Sprinkle with the olive oil, trying to coat each piece. Now sprinkle with grey salt. Then squeeze the half lemon over the top, again trying to coat all. Sprinkle on fresh ground black pepper. Chiffonade the basil.
Stack up the leaves.
Roll them up like a cigar.
Cut them thinly.
Sprinkle the basil on top of it all.
Zest some of the lemon (or use a rasp) and sprinkle on top. This adds a different flavor than the juice, more floral.
Lastly, cut shreds of the cheese with a vegetable peeler (makes them nice and thick) and scatter over the top.
Let sit maybe 10 minutes, then eat.