The first pick-able zucchini have arrived in our garden – finally! I try to hold out and pick them when they’re a tender 5 or 6 inches long. Any smaller and my husband calls me impatient. Any larger and I’m treading in my late grandfathers territory, who not only tended a huge vegetable garden in his yard each summer, but let his veggies grow to the most enormous sizes.
As little kids, my sister and I would come to his house for a visit. On the backstairs would be a collection of seriously gargantuan produce worthy of a state fair-worthy: baseball bat sized zucchini, beets the diameter of softballs, green beans as long as knitting needles and as fat as a roll of quarters. I don’t remember my mom taking any of these specimens home with us, and I don’t actually remember eating any of his harvest either. He would just sit on the back stairs, a cold glass of White Rose iced tea in his hand, and revel in our thrill of seeing vegetables so gigantic.
But today it’s all about micro greens, petit pois, baby carrots, new potatoes; everything young and tender. My guess is that it’s a generational thing. Maybe with my grandfather’s seven brothers and sisters, they needed each plant to feed as many mouths as possible. But in our house – where it’s just two adults, a new baby and a toddler who exists on complex carbs alone, we luckily can be more frivolous.
This is my absolute favorite way to prepare freshly picked, young zucchini. Don’t let the “carpaccio” part fool you: This is no lame, raw zucchini crudites. The salt and vinaigrette help tenderize the zucchini a bit, keeping it crisp and bright, yet tender all at once. Toasted pine nuts and shaved parm bring the richness to balance it all out. The only trick is getting your zucchini sliced to the right thickness. If you have a mandolin (my favorite kitchen gadget) a 1/8 inch setting works perfect here. A vegetable peeler and a light touch work totally fine in a pinch. -Sarah
2 or 3 zucchini, no longer than 6 inches
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Shaved parmigiano reggiano
Using a mandolin (or a vegetable peeler) slice zucchinis lengthwise into 1/8 of an inch slices. Place in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
Combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk to emulsify. Take a taste and adjust the seasoning to your whim. Pour over zucchini slices and carefully toss to coat. Let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, toss pine nuts in a small sautee pan and toast over medium heat until they are golden brown in spots, about 5-7 minutes.
To serve, pile the zucchini onto a large platter and drizzle any juices that have collected at the bottom of the bowl over the top. Scatter pine nuts and freshly shaved parm over the zucchini. Feel free to give the dish one last hit of good quality sea salt and pepper at the end as well.