After years of world travel and dining out in everything from hole-in-the-wall joints in Laos to the finest finery of Paris's restaurants, the real food luxury for me when I travel now is to cook in, using the most simple ingredients, listening to local radio, and serving on the most grandmotherly plates.
Recently while on the road, I made a version of a salad that I love at the height of summer: shaved zucchini with Parmesan and olive oil. When it's too hot to cook and all you have is a vegetable and a hunk of cheese, this is your new go-to dish. I've made this a dozen times at least, but for some reason have neglected to share it on the site until I realized last week in a tiny little shack by the sea that this is a great dish when you're limited in ingredients and tools. I didn't even have the basil I usually like on top, but it was still delicious because the quality of the cheese and zucchini was so high.
This time of year, it's still easy to find smaller, more tender, dense and juicy zucchini. You don't want to use the jumbo county fair prize-winning zucchini; they are too dry and spongy. Slice the zucchini with a mandoline if you have one, but a sharp vegetable peeler or even a regular knife will do. If you have a vegetable peeler, you're set because you can also use it to shred the parmesan into little curly chips, but again, a steady hand and a knife will do. You can still hit this one out of the park.
I know it doesn't look like much, but I promise it'll hit the spot.
Raw Zucchini Ribbons with Parmesan
Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer
2-3 small whole zucchini
1 tablespoon sea salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
2 ounces shaved Parmesan
3-4 basil leaves, sliced chiffonade
Remove the stem end of the zucchini. Using a mandoline, vegetable peeler, or sharp knife, slice off a 1/8-inch strip lengthwise and dispose of it or snack on it. Using this long, white exposed shape as a guide, continue to slice very thin pieces off the zucchini and gently set aside in one layer on a platter. When you get to the end of each zucchini, again reserve the last green slice for another use.
Sprinkle 2 teaspoons salt evenly across the strips and set aside for about 10 minutes. The zucchini will tenderize. Blot with a kitchen towel. Arrange all but one of the strips on a serving plate in rows, in a woven formation, or twisted like rosebuds. Drizzle the olive oil across the zucchini. Top with pepper. Taste the remaining strip for saltiness. If they need more salt, sprinkle the remaining salt. Garnish with the thin strips of basil.
Related: Green-Skinned & Tender-Hearted: Zucchini
(Image: Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan)