One of the biggest lessons I'd like to impart to people who "don't cook-" not everything needs cooking! Case in point, this wonderful summer zucchini salad is made without a whisper of heat - and if you eliminate the parmesan, the most processed ingredient in it is olive oil! It doesn't require any particularly specialized tools, but it's a beautiful and refreshing dish that comes together in minutes.
Carpaccio is technically a raw beef dish, invented in Venice in 1950 at Harry's Bar. Harry's was the brainchild of barman Giuseppe Cipriani, really more of a romantic notion than an actual physical place. Cipriani found an old rope warehouse where his dream could come alive and his star-studded following poured in. One client, a Contessa, avoiding cooked meat on doctor's orders, charged him to invent something she could eat. He obliged by serving a dish of paper-thin raw beef dressed with a lemony mayonnaise, which he named after Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio, known for a palate of pinky-reds and lemony-yellows. In culinary circles, the meaning of the word "carpaccio" has been extended to many dishes using raw, thinly-sliced ingredients.
Enough history! Here is what you will need:
3-4 bright-colored zucchini or yellow summer squash
1-3 young leeks or scallions
A few sprigs of mint or parsley
A wedge of parmesan cheese (don't sub canned: if you don't have it, just skip it.)
good Olive oil
Colander or large strainer
First, using the vegetable peeler, cut thin "ribbons" off your zucchini, making them as wide side-to-side as possible (you can also do this with a sharp knife or a mandoline slicer, just get them as thin as possible.) Turn the zucchini a quarter-turn and slice from there when it gets too thin to handle. Put these in your colander over a bowl. Each time you make a layer of zucchini, lightly salt it. Once all the zucchini is cut and salted, set the colander aside for about an hour to allow the juices to drain (if you're in a rush, skip this step, but the juices will collect at the bottom of your dish.) Hat optional.
We did a bit of harvesting for this salad! I love my little garden - aren't the tiny leeks cute? Cut the roots off the leeks; if you aren't using baby leeks like these, cut them in half lengthwise and rinse them thoroughly under running water, making sure to get in between the layers where grit can hide. Thinly slice the white part of your leeks and add them to the zucchini. Compost the rest.
Just before serving, lightly chop your mint to release the fragrance. Remove the zucchini juice from the bowl (you can use it in soups or smoothies,) and put the drained zucchini and leeks in together with the mint, tossing well to combine.
Grate a little of the lemon zest (maybe a teaspoon or two) over and toss again. Dress lightly with lemon juice and olive oil (the juice of about half a lemon and a couple tablespoons of oil,) and taste to see if you need to add salt.