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.


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.


Warm Kale and Mushroom Salad

by Maja Lukic


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Bridging the gap between late summer and fall today with a warm salad that incorporates the last of the summer's bounty of ripe tomatoes and hearty, substantial kale, mushrooms, and walnuts. Another raw kale salad? Correct. I know - kale is no longer the trendy, sexy vegetable it was two years ago (three years?) and we are all suffering from kale salad fatigue now that every restaurant has ventured to place one on its menu. But stay with me because I've loved kale for years and never thought it needed to be the glorified vegetable of the moment.

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With the advent of fall, though, and the slight chill in the morning air in New York these days, even I recognize that warmer kale dishes are needed now.

Feel free to use any variety of kale here - Tuscan kale has that gorgeous blue-green shade and I see baby kale popping up everywhere lately. If you would like to substitute a different green, some fresh spicy arugula or pea shoots or anything else that looks lovely at the market would work just as well.

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I had the last of my late summer cherry tomatoes for this salad but if tomatoes are not in season when you make this, leave them out. It will taste perfectly delicious without them. Or add in a few slices of a sweet, ripe pear instead.

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The salad has a lot of separate components but it comes together quickly and easily. The walnuts, mushrooms, and balsamic vinegar are added to the kale warm and the heat wilts the leaves ever so slightly making them soft and sweet. Reducing the balsamic vinegar transforms it into a tart syrup that accentuates the sweetness of the shallots, the warm toasted walnuts, the dried cherries, and the sweet juicy tomatoes.  With the meaty cremini mushrooms, it's fairly substantial on its own but to turn it into a meal, feel free to add a cup of cooked quinoa or millet.

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It's simply beautiful, healthful comfort food.

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Warm Kale & Mushroom Salad (v/gf)

Adapted from Tasting Table

Serves 2 as a meal, 4 as an appetizer

1 large bunch of organic curly green kale, stemmed

1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup unsweetened dried cherries (see Note)

1/3 cup raw walnuts, chopped

1 large or 2 medium shallots, finely chopped

3/4 lbs cremini mushrooms (or other meaty variety), thinly sliced

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (see Note)

1 tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil

sea salt, black pepper

Wash the kale, dry it, and then roughly tear it up into bite-sized pieces with your hands (no chopping here). Gently massage 1 tsp olive oil and 1/4 tsp sea salt into the leaves. As you work the kale with your hands, the leaves will become shiny and turn a vibrant green. Add the dried cherries and cherry tomatoes to the kale and set it aside while you prepare the rest of the components.

Toast the chopped walnuts in a skillet over medium-high heat until they are just fragrant. Be sure that they do not burn. Alternatively, you can roast them in the oven by spreading them out on a baking sheet and baking at 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes. Start checking them at the five-minute mark and make sure they do not burn.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in the skillet you used for the walnuts over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently for a few minutes. If the shallots start to burn or brown too much, reduce the heat to low and cook until soft and translucent. Turn the heat back up and add the mushrooms. Cook the mushrooms for a few minutes, stirring frequently until they are browned and have started to release their liquids. Add 1/4 tsp sea salt and continue to cook until the mushrooms are cooked through, about 2-3 more minutes.

In a small saucepan over high heat, add the balsamic vinegar and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for a few minutes until thick and reduced. Take it off the heat when it has a syrupy consistency but note that it will continue to thicken as it cools.

Add the toasted nuts and sautéed mushrooms to the kale. Drizzle everything with the balsamic syrup and season with additional sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Serve with a bottle of wine.

Notes: Be sure to use unsweetened dried fruit. The reduced balsamic syrup is fairly sweet on its own. If you can't find dried cherries, you can definitely substitute dried cranberries or blueberries. As for the balsamic, this is not the occasion for a fine aged import - a basic grocery store balsamic vinegar will do because once it reduces, it will become a thick, luxurious syrup. Of course, if you'd like to use your best balsamic for this project, I won't stop you.


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Your soundtrack? A friend sent me this song and it seems fitting for the approaching fall evenings.