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.


Shaved Fennel Persimmon & Walnut Salad

by Maja Lukic


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Perhaps it's because I've been more sedentary than usual or perhaps it's the brutal onslaught of ice and snow but I've had this craving for fresh winter salads. After a few days of fantasizing about light and healthy but seasonal dishes, I grabbed some fennel and a handful of persimmons and got to work.

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The result is a salad plate that shines with bright flavors and vibrant colors. The gorgeous orange color of the persimmons is visually uplifting and eases the lack of sunlight, the vast expanse of gray skies, and the distinct sensation that everything has assumed a sort of lifeless quality. (I may be struggling with some seasonal blues). The walnut oil and toasted walnuts ground the salad -- it is winter, after all -- and tone down the strong anise flavor of the raw fennel. The arugula is probably an optional component. Leave it in, leave it out -- I think the salad also works pretty well without it.  

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There was a time, not too long ago, when I couldn't stand the taste of raw fennel. In fact, I thought fennel was inedible unless roasted or braised into oblivion. Totally misguided! Raw fennel, sliced thinly into delicate wisps and paired with a bright vinaigrette and contrasting ingredients such as sweet ripe fruit and toasted nuts, is amazing in a salad. As with all things, I'm late to the party. If you're really into raw fennel salads, check out these other interesting variations on the theme: Celery, Apple, and Fennel Slaw, Fennel and Blood Orange Salad, and Shaved Fennel Salad

Persimmons are a recent obsession of mine. This pretty coral fruit has a sweet flavor that falls somewhere in between an apple and butternut squash and is amazingly healthy -- some label it a superfood but I'm not a fan of that word. 

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Because I'm still psychologically scarred from a singular experience with an underripe Hachiya persimmon, I would recommend that you choose the Fuyu varietal for this salad. The Fuyu (pictured throughout) is distinguished by its flat bottom and squash shape and sort of resembles an orange tomato. The Fuyu can be eaten while still firm. The heart-shaped Hachiya has a pointy bottom and a deep orange-red color. If not fully ripened, it imparts a horrible astringent and furry taste and is basically inedible. If you've never had the experience, I can confidently tell you that it's not a great sensation in the mouth. (For what it's worth, the Hachiya is more appropriate for baking/roasting anyway). But persimmons are wonderful little fruits and a welcome seasonal ingredient.

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One final note: I'm still adjusting to my new camera and lens -- which I love -- so if the photos look slightly off, I apologize and promise it will only get better from here. Which is to say, please keep checking back!

Shaved Fennel, Persimmon, and Walnut Salad w/Lemon-Walnut Vinaigrette (v/gf)

Serves 2

For the salad

1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed and sliced paper thin

2 persimmons, sliced paper thin

2-3 cups arugula 

1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

Lemon-Walnut Vinaigrette

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tbsp maple syrup (or more to taste)

2 tbsp toasted walnut oil

sea salt

Prepare the Lemon-Walnut Vinaigrette by whisking together the lemon juice, Dijon mustard, maple syrup, and walnut oil. Taste and sweeten with additional maple syrup, to taste.

Toast the walnuts in a skillet over medium heat for about 3 to 5 minutes or until lightly fragrant. 

Slice the fennel and persimmons thinly in a food processor or with a sharp knife. For the fennel, cut off the stalks and trim the ends. Cut the fennel in half lengthwise, remove the core (save for snacking), and slice the fennel crosswise into paper thin wisps. For the persimmons, cut them in half lengthwise and slice thinly into half moons.  

In a large salad bowl, toss the shaved fennel with half of the vinaigrette and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Add the persimmons, arugula, and walnuts to the fennel. Gently toss the salad with as much of the remaining vinaigrette as you'd like and season lightly with sea salt. Serve immediately.

Note: Slice the fennel and persimmons as thinly as possible. I have a dim view of mandolines so I would recommend a food processor with a shredding/slicing attachment or a sharp knife and some patience. About an eighth of an inch or thinner is best for both the fennel and the persimmons. You may substitute the walnut oil with olive oil, avocado oil, or a different nut oil. 


Mango Cucumber and Avocado Salad w/Honey-Lime Vinaigrette

by Maja Lukic


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I'm on vacation in Florida this week so naturally my mind turns to light, beach-friendly eats, which is not to say that I haven't indulged in my fair share of Cuban and Peruvian takeout - sweet fried plantains, ceviche, black beans, and fried yucca have all crossed my lips in the last few days and probably will again before I leave. But for the most part, I've been lounging by the pool or on the sand in sweltering heat and craving cool, hydrating snacks. I've had some version of this salad for lunch all week. Sometimes things get weird and I add chickpeas into the mix. And that works for me but you do not have to go there.

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Cilantro is a polarizing little plant so if you really can't bear it, substitute a little mint. (A little goes a long way). I have grown to really love cilantro. In fact, this salad is only a vehicle for me to consume mangoes, lime, and cilantro together.

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I learned something new about cilantro this week but maybe this is not new to you. At the grocery store the other night, I watched an older lady as she lifted bunch after bunch of the green stuff to her nose breathing deeply each time. Finally, she shook her head and said, "Not bad, not great." She explained to me that you can gauge how fresh the cilantro is by its smell - really fresh cilantro has a strong, gorgeous scent.

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Another cilantro tip I picked up in a cooking class recently: no need to remove the stems. With cilantro, a lot of the flavor resides in the stem. This is the complete opposite of parsley where almost all of the flavor is found in the leaves and the stem is virtually tasteless.

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This salad is best served chilled. Feel free to leave out the avocado until the very last minute. Then take it outside and eat it in the sun, preferably on a beach.

Mango Cucumber and Avocado Salad w/Honey-Lime Vinaigrette (gf)

Serves 3-4

1 large cucumber, sliced into 1/2 inch cubes (peeled if not organic)

1 mango, sliced into 1/2 inch cubes

3 medium red plums, sliced into 1/2 inch cubes

1 avocado, cubed

1/2 cup organic cilantro, roughly chopped

1 cup cooked chickpeas (optional)

Honey-Lime Vinaigrette:

2 tbsp fresh lime juice (approx. 1 1/2 to 2 limes)

1 1/2 tbsp honey (or other sweetener for a vegan version - see Note)

1 tbsp olive oil

sea salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together and season with s&p to taste. Toss the salad ingredients (except for the avocado) with the vinaigrette.

Chill for 30 minutes or until ready to serve. Just before serving, add in the avocado and gently incorporate. Serve cold.

Optional: if you want to get weird and maybe you do, add in 1 cup cooked chickpeas for a more substantial meal.

Notes: For a vegan version, substitute the honey in the dressing with maple syrup, coconut nectar, or brown rice syrup. 

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I've been watching the waves and listening to this track all week.