I ate the first local zucchinis of the season last weekend. I found them at the farmers market hiding in a small crate next to more prominent spring vegetables. They were tiny, at the most 4-5 inches long and had an apple-like crunchy texture. They had a faint fruity taste and were amazing compared to the large watery zucchini you can find later on in the season.
When have you last eaten a zucchini and said wow? Large zucchini don’t do much for me. They never seem to have much flavor, hence needing the grill or roast-in-a-skillet treatment.
I was looking to highlight the gentleness of the baby zucchini and decided to use them raw in a few dishes—no heat treatment at all necessary.
Baby Zucchini Salad
(recipe makes four portions)
1 pound small green zucchini
1 head butter lettuce
2 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and cut into 1/8" dice
1 jalapeño, seeded and white inner walls cut out, then cut into tiny cubes
10 fresh bing cherries
Sea salt, to taste
Fresh pepper from the mill, to taste
1 teaspoon or 5 large fresh mint leaves chopped into 1/4" pieces
1) Rinse zucchinis with water and cut ends off. With a Mandolin slicer or a knife cut zucchini into 1/8" thick circles.
2) Tear lettuce into bite-sized leaves and rinse with water. Dry lettuce on a kitchen paper towel or in a salad spinner.
3) Rinse cherries with water. With a small knife cut in half and remove pits. If you have a cherry pit remover use that.
4) Prep jalapeño and shallots.
5) In a bowl combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt and fresh pepper. Mix with a whisk vigorously for one minute.
6) Arrange lettuce into four salad bowls.
7) Combine prepped shallots, jalapeño, cherries and zucchini with the dressing in the bowl and spoon over the lettuce leafs. Sprinkle chopped mint leaves over the salad arrangement.
Chef’s tip: Add 1 cup cooked chickpeas to the zucchini salad for a more substantial meal.