Monday, August 8, 2011

A New Way of Looking at Zucchini

I hate August.  Summer is dying, and the garden is exploding with so much produce that I can't see straight over the steamy fog spewing from the pressure canner in hissing spurts.  August is one giant pressure canner in my head (as I prepare for the new teaching term), and even in the atmosphere  (as we've had daily thunderstorms all this week and when I step out my front door its like the steamy inside of a pressure canner.)

The only thing that's  made me feel better in the kitchen is eating raw zucchini ribbons.  It is cliche to discuss the abundance of zucchini right now.  Case in point, last weekend I was a speaker on a local food panel at the Lake Erie Yearly Meeting of Quakers, and EVERY single one of us panelists made a joke about zucchini overload.  Even so, I'm going to discuss zucchini anyway.  This tired, old, boring problem of what to do with summer squash has a simple solution.

Sometimes you only need to change the shape of something to utterly transform it.  My f(F)riends, J (author of this awesome spiritual blog) and his fiance, K  invited me over for dinner last Sunday night.  They served me a raw zucchini salad that was quite like the "salad of raw zucchini, lemon, and toasted Parmesan" that Nigel Slater discusses in Tender I had been reading about one a few days before.  Slater writes, the raw zucchini "had the quality of freshly picked wet walnuts." 

 Rather than cubing it or chunking the zucchini, J and K finely sliced the zucchini.  Wispy threads of noodle-like zucchini flesh are surprisingly juicy, succulent and slightly nutty.  They drizzled the zucchini with olive oil and lemon juice and a heavy grating of Parmesan cheese.  A simple and delightfully refreshing salad that I can't seem to get enough of (though, in my version, I added a sprinkling of  pine nuts and used a vegetable peeler--rather than a mandoline--to get the thinnest slices possible.)

When two similar ideas show up in my life from seperate sources, well, rather than coincidence, I believe that some greater good, some divine force, is working, asking me to stop and pay attention.  Even to something as simple and mundane as zucchini.

 Suddenly, I am MINDFUL of the zucchini now that it has taken on this new shape, taste, and texture.  The dish is light and delicate, and I find that I have to quiet myself to really taken in the understated glory of the subtle, shifting flavors.  I like everything about this dish.  The monochromatic, pale colors are beautiful, the textures, the ease of preparing it.  And then there's the fact that I can eat an entire zucchini like this all by myself.  Then I don't feel so desperate when there are 10 very large zucchinis, sitting in wait on the bottom shelf of my fridge.


Karen Babine said...

It's nice to see zucchini used for itself, rather than a vehicle to something else. I'm guilty of grating up my zucchini and freezing it to pull out in the winter and use in zucchini bread and such (its function being moisture in those recipes, rather than anything that brings out the zucchini's flavor). I'm going to have to try this!

Anonymous said...

If you then dehydrate those ribbons, you get really tasty "zuke noodles." When you pour boiling water on them, they rehydrate about 85% - concentrating the flavor and making them a little more able to hold up to a hot sauce without disintegrating. Nice for winter...but more work in August!