Thursday, February 10, 2011

Zucchini Salad

When I think finger food, I think kiddie food: corn on the cob, cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks. But lately I have noticed that my adult friends seem to love getting their hands dirty, too. When it's asparagus season, no one can help but snaffle a spear and whiffle it up*; and now it's time for zucchini. I serve a simple zucchini salad night after night, and it seems few can resist picking up ribbons of zucchini and, heads tilted back, delicate necks exposed, coiling them into their mouths. It's like eating grapes on a Roman couch, only there's no nubile young slave at the ready, more's the pity.

The picking up, the coiling, the draping, the swallowing, the licking of the lips, the sucking of the fingers – the eroticism of zucchini is surprising. Alas, not only do we lack slaves, but young children are present and we can go no further.

The recipe which follows is ridiculously simple – so simple I'm embarrassed to write it down – but there are two tricks. The first is to use really young, firm zucchini, when the flavour is mild and the seeds immature. The other is to slice the zucchini very thinly. I use a vegetable peeler and, by running it down the length of the zucchini, get long pretty ribbons tumbled over the plate.

When the zucchini are this fresh and sliced so thin, they need nothing more than the most basic dressing: lemon juice, olive oil and a pinch of salt. Even so, for a change I sometimes add slivers of parmesan, also shaved with a veggie peeler; or basil leaves, torn over the salad just before serving. From a mother's point of view, the parmesan is particularly effective: even zucchini hating youngsters will sometimes eat a ribbon when they can wrap it around a hefty shard of cheese.

*Incidentally, the correct way to eat asparagus is, in fact, with one's fingers.

Zucchini Salad

- small firm zucchini
- olive oil
- lemon juice
- basil leaves (optional)
- parmesan (optional)
- salt

Hold the zucchini over a large plate. Using a vegetable peeler, peel it into ribbons which tumble onto the plate.

Drizzle with olive oil and a good squeeze of lemon juice. Season to taste. If you wish, sprinkle with torn basil leaves or slivers of parmesan.

Serve immediately.

(Local: zucchini, lemon, olive oil, basil. Not local: salt, parmesan.)

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