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.


Millet Grapefruit Walnut Salad (+ Cookbook Giveaway)

by Maja Lukic


I'm intensely aware that it's been a few weeks since my last post. I may be the world's laziest blogger by typical food blogger standards. The reason is this: I tend to follow intuition and inspiration rather than a set schedule and inspiration is fickle. And there's this, too: whenever my creative projects threaten to overwhelm, I slow down and take a brief hiatus from blogging. And the last of my half-hearted excuses is this: the weather has been gorgeous and I have a stack of new novels. Reading outside in a park or on a rooftop or, preferably, by a large body of water is one of my favorite things to do on warm days. And so, on a quiet Sunday afternoon, it's tough to drag myself away from extravagant sunlight and electric blue skies and into a cramped, overheated kitchen to test recipes. 

But I'm back today--if only briefly--with some fun news. This week, I'm participating in a "Virtual Salad Party" hosted by California Walnuts. Basically, all week, participating bloggers will be posting and featuring selected entree salad recipes created by one of three chefs:  Aida Mollenkamp, Joanne Weir, and Mollie Katzen.

I like walnuts, I like salads--naturally, I jumped at this opportunity. For the featured post, I chose to prepare this Grain Salad with Toasted Walnuts, Dates and Grapefruit by Chef Joanne Weir. You can check out some of the other awesome posts here. Anyway, in conjunction with the "Salad Party" happenings, the generous folks at California Walnuts have sent over an extra copy of Chef Weir's most recent cookbook for me to give away--to one of you. For full giveaway entry details, see below. 

But first, a brief interlude to introduce this salad. Entree salads are a default meal for me (and for many of you, I suspect) because they're fast, easy, and chill (to the extent that a meal can be described as chill). There is a sliding scale of "healthy" because anything from hemp seeds to steak is fair game. And salads are open to infinite variation, depending on what's available and what's in season.

This recipe is no exception. It's a creative mix of grains, nuts, herbs, dried and fresh fruit with a bright citrus vinaigrette. Although the original recipe is great as written, I played with some of the ingredients to suit my own tastes and preferences. The recipe calls for equal parts quinoa and millet but I decided to use all millet because I just don't love quinoa that much--sorry, guys. I substituted walnut oil for the olive oil for enhanced walnut flavor and while I enjoy the grapefruit, I may try different fruit next time--red grapes or blackberries come to mind. I may add in some roasted asparagus, too. The salad benefits from a fresh infusion of seasonal greens--I used pea shoots here but anything from wild spinach or escarole to sorrel to baby kale should work. To top it off, I tossed in handfuls of edible flowers until the entire plate began to resemble a high school production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." For color, but also, I have no self-control in the presence of edible flowers (see hereherehere, and here). All in all, I found this to be a delightful little lunch/dinner salad.  

To win a copy of Chef Weir's cookbook, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling me about your favorite salad ingredient. Don't forget to leave your email so that I have a way to reach you! A winner will be selected at random on June 21, 2014. Good luck!

Millet Grapefruit Walnut and Date Salad (v/gf)

Adapted from Joanne Weir

Serves 6

Salad

1 1/2 cups millet

sea salt

2 grapefruits, washed

1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

1/2 cup dates, pitted and chopped

1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped

2 cups pea shoots (or other spring greens)

Grapefruit-Walnut Vinaigrette

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

3 tbsp walnut oil (or olive oil)

1/2 tsp grapefruit zest

2 tbsp fresh grapefruit juice

1 tsp maple syrup

sea salt

Preheat the oven to 375 F degrees. 

To prepare the vinaigrette, whisk the vinegar, walnut oil, maple syrup, and grapefruit zest together. Set aside. 

Place the millet in a skillet over medium high heat and toast for about four minutes, shaking the pan constantly. Add 2 1/4 cups water and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil on high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until all of the moisture is absorbed (about 35 minutes). You may need to add more water periodically if the grains dry out as they're cooking. When cooked, spread the millet out on a baking sheet to cool. 

Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for about seven minutes or until fragrant and lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. 

Wash the grapefruits and segment over a medium bowl to catch the juices. To segment (or supreme) grapefruit, slice off the top and bottom horizontally to reveal the flesh inside. Rest the fruit on a cutting board on one of the flat ends and, with a sharp knife, slice off the peel in strips, working from top to bottom. Work the blade of the knife along the curve of the grapefruit to remove all of the white pith. Then, with a paring knife, cut the segments out by slicing into the grapefruit vertically between the membranes. (It helps to hold the grapefruit in your hand as you do this.). Repeat until you've removed all of the segments and then squeeze the remaining center of the grapefruit over the bowl to extract the juices. Discard the center and remaining membranes. Repeat with the second grapefruit.

Add two tablespoons of the grapefruit juice to the vinaigrette. Season with sea salt.

Toss the pea shoots (or other spring greens) with a tablespoon or two of the vinaigrette and layer at the bottom of a wide shallow bowl to create a bed for the salad. Toss the millet, walnuts, dates, parsley, and grapefruit segments with the remaining vinaigrette. Taste for seasoning and serve on top of the pea shoots.

Notes: Although Weir specifies 15 to 18 minutes as the grain cooking time, I found it was closer to 35 minutes. Also, millet tends to cook unevenly--at the end, some grains will be soft while others will be al dente. That's OK--it's just the nature of the grain. These are my modifications to Weir's original recipe:

- I used all millet instead of equal parts quinoa and millet. 

- I added pea shoots to the salad and increased the amount of parsley.

- I added maple syrup to sweeten the vinaigrette.

- I substituted walnut oil for the olive oil in the vinaigrette.


Chilled Pea and Sorrel Soup

by Maja Lukic


How pretty are those violet radish micro greens? Sometimes I feel spoiled living so close to a fantastic farmers market. I'm on a mission to purchase at least one new item every week and find a creative way to use it. On a recent trip to the market, as I was picking out the radish micro greens pictured throughout, a display of baby sorrel caught my attention. 

Sorrel is a beautiful perennial herb. It has a pronounced tart and oxalic flavor and, according to Deborah Madison, sorrel belongs in the same family as rhubarb and buckwheat, which is pretty amazing. It's a lovely green plant with delicately-shaped, pointed leaves. 

With the focus on spring's glossier vegetables like asparagus or cult favorites like ramps, I think poor sorrel gets overlooked. To be fair, it's not as accessible as other greens. Grocery stores sell small bunches of sorrel in plastic containers but for a larger quantity, you have to visit a farmers market. And sorrel can be fairly expensive. Even so, I think it's underutilized. When I stepped up to pay for my bag of greens at the market, the girl behind the cash register squinted at the sorrel and said: "Are you making a soup? I'm always asking people about what they do with sorrel." What do people do with sorrel? That weekend, I was planning on making this soup but I've since discovered some other applications. 

There are interesting recipes out there for yoghurt or cream-based sorrel sauces but I was determined to find/create vegan recipes. And, basically, sorrel, with its incredible tangy flavor, applies in any dish where you might otherwise add a burst of lemon juice -- think of seafood, grains, potatoes, lentils, sauces, vinaigrettes, pastas, pestos, or soups. Of course, I love lemons and tart flavors so much that I often add lemon juice to sorrel dishes anyway. 

It's beautiful, crunchy, bright green, and astringent in its raw form. In its cooked form, that vibrant shade quickly bleeds into a drab army green as soon as the leaves and the plant generally assumes a slimy texture. I was shocked the first time I prepared this soup! But its beautiful tart flavor remains strong even when cooked and once you blend the soup, the dish looks fine. Because it's still early in the season, I found baby sorrel and the stems were not an issue. But as the season progresses and the sorrel matures, you will want to remove the thick stems of the leaves before you use it. If you'd like to learn more, Food52 has a great little article on sorrel. 

This is intended to be served as a chilled soup but I've heated it gently on cooler evenings and it's nice like that, too. The sorrel lightens the sweet, starchy peas, and for added interest, I like to top it off with a citrusy, creamy coconut cream and some purple radish micro greens, which have a mild spicy flavor. If you can't find radish micro greens, use sliced radishes or some spicy arugula for a similar bite. In the end, the soup has a delicate balance of cooling and spicy, sweet and tangy, and crunchy and creamy elements. 

The lemon-coconut cream is entirely optional but I love how it looks in the soup and once swirled in, it lends the soup a lovely creamy quality -- much like actual sour cream. Fair warning, though: although I really like it in this soup, it does have a subtle sweetness and a trace of coconut flavor. If you don't love the coconut, omit the cream and substitute a plain dairy product or enjoy the soup on its own. 

Chilled Pea and Sorrel Soup with Lemon-Coconut Cream (v/gf)

Serves 6

Soup

1 tbsp avocado oil

3-4 shallots, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup white wine (I like a nice Albariño )

2 lbs. peas (fresh or frozen)

2 cups baby sorrel 

2 cups water

1 tsp sea salt

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Lemon-Coconut Cream

1 can full-fat coconut milk, chilled in the fridge overnight

1 lemon

sea salt

garnish: purple radish micro greens (or sliced radishes), olive oil

Wash the sorrel and if the plant is mature or the stems look tough and stringy, remove the stems.

Heat the avocado oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Sauté the shallots until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and white wine and cook for a few more minutes until the wine reduces by half. 

Add the peas, sorrel, and about 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook until the sorrel wilts and the peas are just cooked through (for fresh peas) or warmed through (for frozen peas). Do not overcook. Take the soup off the heat and allow it to cool. If it looks too watery, remove some of the excess liquid. Blend the soup with 2 tablespoons of olive oil until creamy. Return to the soup pot, season with a teaspoon of sea salt, and set aside. At this point, you can chill the soup for a few hours to serve later or you can serve right away at room temperature. 

To prepare the coconut cream, turn the can upside down and open it. The coconut fat will be at the bottom of the can and the liquid will be at the top. Carefully pour out the liquid but reserve it. Scoop the coconut fat out into a separate bowl and add the zest and juice of a lemon. Stir until creamy, adding a few tablespoons of the reserved coconut liquid if the cream seems too stiff. Add sea salt to taste. 

To serve the soup, ladle into bowls and swirl a tablespoon of coconut cream into each bowl. Top with a small handful of radish micro greens and a few more drops of olive oil, if desired. 

The soup can be stored in the fridge for up to three days. Serve chilled or gently heated. 

Note: You can either use fresh or frozen peas but frozen peas are sweeter, in my opinion. To preserve the bright color, don't overcook the peas -- take the soup off the heat as soon as the peas are cooked (for fresh peas) or defrosted (for frozen peas). Be sure to use chilled coconut milk. Note that when the coconut cream is chilled again, it will solidify and adopt a texture similar to firm cream cheese.