Shredded Zucchini Salad

by Maja Lukic


Zucchini season has commenced. I, for one, am thrilled about this development. That, and the beginning of Summer of Riesling. Because how can you not get excited about an entire summer of delicious Riesling? (Though I must admit that this summer, like everyone else, I'm obsessed with Albariño wines). 

I've never understood why people complain about needing to dispose of large quantities of zucchini. I can never seem to keep enough zucchini in my kitchen. In any case, it's not even peak season yet and everyone is making zucchini noodles and pasta, which is an acceptable treatment. But I'm proposing that you do something a little different here.  I'm proposing that you shred or grate your zucchini and then serve it up as a fantastic raw salad.  

This is about as refreshing and delicious as it gets. For instance, it was so hot last weekend that I couldn't comprehend the thought of solid food. I walked down to Liquiteria for a smoothie lunch (though if it hadn't been so humid, I would have walked the 30+ blocks to The Butcher's Daughter for one of their juices). My liquid lunch turned out to be an ill-advised decision because I crashed by about 4 p.m.  But it was still blistering outside. I had this salad in the fridge, though, and it made for a satisfying and cooling mid-afternoon snack. I sat by an open window in my apartment, snacking on the raw zucchini and contemplating the rising stack of literary magazines on my coffee table. (They just keep arriving in the mail and I've been averaging, like, one short story every three days. It's absurd.).

I topped this off with purple micro radish, which has been a favorite ever since I discovered it at the market earlier this spring. If you can't find micro radish, substitute any other variety of micro greens or even sliced, spicy radishes. The shredded zucchini is the foundation, but the other ingredients are pretty flexible.

The one step you shouldn't neglect is salting the zucchini before you dress it. Zucchini releases more water than you might expect. In fact, as soon as you slice into it, little mercury beads of sweat begin to appear on the cut surface. And when you dress the salad and add salt, it will release even more moisture, diluting the dressing. Definitely salt the zucchini beforehand. 

Shredded Zucchini Salad (v/gf)

Lightly adapted from Cuisine Niçoise

Serves 4

4 zucchini, unpeeled

2 cups cherry tomatoes

1 cup micro radish (or other micro greens)

1/2 cup basil

1 tbsp champagne vinegar 

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 tbsp olive oil

sea salt, pepper

Wash and trim the zucchini (no need to peel). Grate the zucchini on a box grater or process in a food processor with the shredding attachment. Toss the zucchini with 1/2 tsp salt in a colander. Set aside to drain for 30 minutes. 

Whisk together the champagne vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, and olive oil. 

Wash and halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes. 

Drain the zucchini and squeeze out all of the extra liquid. You can either wrap up the zucchini in a clean kitchen towel and wring it dry or just use your hands for the task. 

Toss the zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and vinaigrette together. Adjust the seasoning, adding more lemon juice or vinegar. It should taste bright and refreshing, not dull or chalky. Add more salt, if needed. 

Chill for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Chiffonade the basil: stack the leaves like a deck of cards, roll them up into a cigar (or yoga mat) and slice into 1/4-inch thick ribbons.

To serve, portion out 1 cup of the salad on each plate. Scatter micro radish and basil over the salad and drizzle with additional olive oil.

Store in the fridge for up to two days.

Note: Substitute white balsamic, white wine, or red wine vinegar for the champagne vinegar, if necessary. The zucchini should be pretty salty after draining so you may not need to add additional salt to the salad.


Cherry Thyme Clafoutis

by Maja Lukic


I am going to France! Not like tomorrow or next week or even next month, but certainly in a few months. And since I've been contemplating this fantastic European excursion, mapping Paris, making lists, I'm feeling Francophile inspiration everywhere. 

I decided to prepare a clafoutis, which is a sweet French cake with a soft pudding-like texture. It's similar to a baked pancake. For my first clafoutis, I thought I would start with a traditional cherry version and work up to more outrageous fruit from there. But for interest--and a delicate Provençal twist--I added fresh thyme. It's beautiful and it complements the fresh sweet cherries. (Of course if you're not feeling the herbal situation, leave it out). I've had an idea for a gluten-free/grain-free clafoutis in mind for months. Almond flour was a natural choice because almonds and cherries pair so well in any context. 

This can be a delicious and filling dessert but it's even better as breakfast with a strong espresso. You can serve it chilled or at room temperature. And if you'd like to add a creamy element of some sort, no objection here. 

I shot this recipe with both frozen black cherries and fresh sweet cherries. After several rounds of taste tests, I confess mixed feelings about using frozen cherries here. The visual difference between fresh (image above) and frozen fruit (image below) is palpable in the photographs but I can also vouch that the flavor of the fresh cherry clafoutis is nicer. I should add that the fresh thyme is more noticeable and lovely in the fresh cherry version. And it only takes a little extra effort to pit the cherries (a plain drinking straw works quite well to remove the pits if you don't have a cherry pitter).

To be fair, my only real issue with frozen cherries is that the cherries bleed blue juice into the pancake batter, which isn't egregious on its own but, combined with the soft texture of the clafoutis, the effect can be unappetizing. 

Although this post has French roots, the red, white & blue nature of this dessert coincides nicely with the upcoming holidays--4th of July here and Canada Day on July 1 for my friends up North. Have a wonderful long weekend and enjoy the holidays!

Cherry Thyme Clafoutis (gf)

Adapted from Saveur

Serves 8

5 eggs

1 1/4 cup almond milk

3/4 cup almond flour

3 tbsp maple syrup (or brown/sucanat/coconut sugar)

1/2 vanilla bean, scraped (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)

1 lemon, zest only

1 tsp fresh thyme

3 cups pitted fresh cherries (or frozen, see note)

sea salt

avocado oil (for baking)

powdered/confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 400 F degrees. 

Blend the eggs, almond milk, maple syrup, seeds from 1/2 of a vanilla bean (or vanilla extract), and a pinch of sea salt in a blender (or whisk by hand). Blend (or whisk) the ingredients until smooth. Add the zest of 1 lemon and a teaspoon of fresh thyme. Add the almond flour and continue to blend/whisk until smooth and no lumps remain. Let the batter rest for at least 30 minutes in the fridge (or overnight).   

Slide a cast iron skillet into the oven for a few minutes to warm up. Add enough avocado oil (or other high-heat cooking oil) to the bottom of the skillet to coat the bottom and sides. Pour half of the batter into the skillet and slide back into the oven for 3 to 4 minutes. Distribute the cherries evenly over the batter and pour the remaining batter over the cherries. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until puffy and golden brown and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. (It will deflate as it cools).

Cool for 10 minutes before serving. Dust with confectioners' sugar, slice into wedges, and serve. Store in the fridge for a day. 

Notes: The batter can be prepared up to one day in advance. Store in the fridge overnight. If using frozen cherries, defrost, drain, and blot dry with a paper towel. When baking, add half of the batter at a time so that the cherries don't sink to the bottom. If you don't have fresh thyme, omit (dried thyme is a poor substitute).

 


Mushroom Socca (Chickpea Pancake) w/ Rosemary and Tomato

by Maja Lukic


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This may come as a shock to some but I am a huge crêpe/pancake/pizza person. And so, when I saw chickpea flour pancakes and crêpes featured in a number of different vegetarian cookbooks, I had to experiment.

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Garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour is made from dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas) and is naturally gluten-free and remarkably high in protein. It's heavily used in parts of France (to make socca and panisses) and Italy (to make farinata).  In a way, it's the perfect gluten-free flour because it requires no gums or other binding agents to create delicious flatbreads, fries, pancakes, and crêpes. Interestingly, it tastes nothing like chickpeas, which may or may not be a selling point? I don't know. I actually really like chickpeas. It has a definitive cheesy flavor, though, and, baked into a thick pancake, works really well as a tart or pizza base. Thin, delicate chickpea crêpes can be filled with various savory ingredients and rolled like any other type of crêpe. 

I love its crispy texture, its savory notes, and its versatility. It's become something of a mainstay in my kitchen. Expect to see more of it in upcoming posts. 

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I created a thick baked pancake with a mushroom and rosemary batter and topped it off with pan-blistered cherry tomatoes. The end result is a savory pancake/flatbread hybrid with a soft crust, fragrant, slightly bitter rosemary, and earthy mushrooms. Because the "broiler" feature on my oven appears to be more decorative than anything else, the photos don't quite reflect the beautiful charred top of a traditional socca but I am told that the broiler is the best way to achieve it. For a creamy element, I added some homemade pine nut cheese but cashew cheese, goat cheese, yoghurt, harissa, ajvar, romesco, and salsa are all welcome. But my absolute favorite way to eat it is plain -- it's excellent served warm out of the oven accompanied only by a glass of crisp, white wine.

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Mushroom Socca with Rosemary and Blistered Tomatoes (v/gf)

Makes 1  10-inch pancake

1 cup chickpea flour

1 cup water

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus additional for drizzling

1 tsp sea salt 

1 tsp finely minced rosemary

2-3 portobello mushrooms 

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

3 cups cherry tomatoes 

avocado oil (or other high-heat cooking oil)

extra sea salt and black pepper

Combine the water, 2 tbsp olive oil, and 1 tsp sea salt in a medium bowl. Sift in 1 cup of chickpea flour and whisk the ingredients together, making sure no clumps remain. Cover and let the batter rest at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours or in the fridge overnight. 

In the meantime, prepare the portobellos: wipe the caps clean with a damp paper towel, remove the stems, and, with a small spoon, scrape out the black gills from the underside of the mushrooms. Discard the gills. (Purists would argue that throwing out the gills removes a lot of flavor but it also prevents the gills from discoloring the batter). Chop the mushroom caps into 1/2-inch cubes or smaller.

Heat 1 tbsp avocado oil in a large pan over medium sized heat. Add the chopped mushrooms and saute on medium-high heat for a few minutes until the mushrooms release their moisture. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to saute until the mushrooms are cooked through. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Add the balsamic vinegar and increase the heat to medium-high. Continue to cook for another minute or two, stirring often, until most of the liquid in the pan has reduced. Remove from heat. 

Preheat the oven to 450 F and place a cast-iron skillet into the oven for a few minutes. Carefully add 1 tbsp of avocado oil (or other cooking oil) into the hot skillet and swirl it around to evenly coat the bottom. Add the batter to the pan and swirl it around to make sure the batter and the mushrooms are evenly distributed. Bake for about 15 minutes and then slide the pan under the broiler for another 3 to 5 minutes. 

Top the hot socca with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Allow the socca to cool for about 5 to 10 minutes in the pan. With a heat-proof spatula, gently loosen the edges. Slide the spatula under the pancake to make sure the bottom is completely loose from the pan and then slide it out onto a plate or a baking sheet. 

In the same pan you used for the mushrooms, heat a tablespoon of avocado oil (or other cooking oil) over high heat. Add the cherry tomatoes (either halved or whole) and cook them on high heat for a few minutes until they're blistered and lightly charred, shaking the pan often. Season them lightly with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper and remove from heat. 

Cut the socca into triangles and top with the blistered cherry tomatoes and whatever other condiments you like. Serve immediately. 

Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for a day or two but it's best to reheat before serving. 

Note: Leftover chickpea flour should be stored in the fridge or freezer. You can substitute any other type of mushroom or even other vegetables (thinly sliced onions are traditional) but add no more than 1 cup of cooked or raw veg. Because the baking time is so short, I like to add already cooked vegetables but delicate ingredients such as tomatoes, spinach, zucchini, and onions can probably go into the batter raw.