Plainclothes Feast

A weekly peek at one dinner table, in the heart of one home, in the center of the country

Shaved Zucchini Salad

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When you find yourself googling what in the world to do with zucchini, you know it’s July. We eats lots of zucchini in this family, and I tend to prepare it in the way that I think of as traditional: sliced into rounds and sauteed with a little sweet onion and then sprinkled with summer herbs. But my kids–well, the older two, anyway– have always been big fans of snitching the raw zucchini rounds right off the cutting board while I’m preparing that dish. And the fact that I probably shouldn’t complain about their furtive efforts to consume raw, garden-fresh vegetables has never prevented me from complaining anyway. It’s their birthright to swipe things off the cutting board, and it’s mine to be annoyed by it.

Sometimes, they beg me to leave them a few “not baked.” (Just to be clear: I don’t “bake” the zucchini, but the finer points of culinary language still elude them.)

When I saw the recipe from which I adapted this dish, I thought the little veggie thieves would love it…and I was half right. He likes it, but she doesn’t. She likes her zucchini “just plain, not baked, with a little bit of salt.”

Incidentally, my little guy doesn’t like zucchini no matter what I do with it. He does like “oombuddahs” (cucumbers) soaked in vinegar, weirdly enough, and he’s been eating plenty of those in the last couple of weeks. But apparently, he’s holding out for a different seasonal crop: One early morning last week, as his big brother was prattling incomprehensibly about something that happened in the Cressida Cowell book he’s reading, as his big sister was trying to determine how many slices of cinnamon toast she wanted for breakfast, as I rushed to unload the dishwasher so that I could go meet a friend for an 8 a.m. walk, he suddenly shouted, “Would everybody just be quiet? I’m trying to say something!” The kitchen grew silent. Sitting in his booster seat, he rested his cheek in his hand forlornly and asked, “When are peaches EVER going to be ready?”

I was so proud of his emerging sense of seasonality…until he very shortly asked if it was almost Christmas yet.

Peaches: soon. Christmas: oh, please, not yet.

But zucchini: Now!

And if you’re tired of sauteeing yours, frying it, and grating it up to slip it into baked goods, give this dish a try. It can dispatch three good-sized zucchini in no time at all. And it’s so beautiful, too. Don’t you think?

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I didn’t take any process photos of this dish because I would never have predicted that it would be quite so delicious, so use your imagination for now, and maybe I’ll add some photos another time. I’ll be making it again…and again…until my zucchini plants abruptly shrivel up, which always happens sooner or later. (Actually, I made it again just tonight, but I still didn’t take pictures. It just went so fast! You’ll see…)

Shaved Zucchini Salad

2 tablespoons olive oil

the juice of one respectable lemon (~2 tablespoons)

a generous pinch of salt

fresh ground pepper

thinly sliced red onion (several half moons, or to taste)

3 nice sized zucchini (I used green and yellow because that’s what I have growing), shaved with a veggie peeler

~ 3 ounces of Parmesan cheese, shredded or (better still) shaved, like the zucchini

a handful of chopped green herbs (like basil and parsley), if you want

1. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

2. Add the super-thin slices of red onion and let them soak while you use your veggie peeler to shave the zucchini. If your zucchini have a lot of seeds, you can stop shaving once you hit the seedy part. If they are nice and firm, use the whole things.

3. Just before serving, stir in the shaved zucchini, shaved cheese, and herbs (if you want).

This is a very un-fussy recipe, which is why I have all the “~” signs (what are those things called anyway? I should probably know) and all of the if-you-want’s and or’s. But I promise you can’t mess it up! And even if you did, what have you got to lose? A few zucchini? Don’t worry…There will be more!

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