Okay, so, it’s not really a problem. Garden abundance is never really something to get all bothered about. But I’m in this Produce Challenge position annually, and despite being able to set my watch by the sure-thing plentitude of zucchini from my dad’s garden — so many that I could make a little edible log cabin out of them — I find myself feeling like a deer in headlights.
Although, really, a doe or a buck wouldn’t have this problem either — the creature would simply eat them and be happy (to a gardener’s great chagrin). Instead, I just fear the impending guilt of, as my dad might say, my eyes being bigger than my stomach and carting off way too many of the oblong, gorgeously green squash on my trek back home.
So year after year, I sit here freaked out about doing something… great!… with the zucchs. But somehow great always seems to translate to complicated, which is an equation that equals time, which equals none. Today (and many days lately) I remember what the chef Cesare Casella told me once: Work with what you have, and keep it simple and fresh. Or something along those lines. You know what I’m sayin’.
This morning, I remembered my friend Mindy Fox’s truly great book Salads: Beyond the Bowl, and I found my answer. There is so much to this cookbook, I’ve prepped and cooked and found inspiration from it more times than I can count since it came out in 2012, and I’m still finding new things to make and love from it. This time of year, I find it especially to be a staple in my home. After coming home Sunday loaded down with zucchs from Dad’s garden, trying to think up something new to do with them and inevitably going through the Usual Suspect choices in my brain (grilled, bread, sautéed, stuffed) and not really feeling stoked about those ideas, I remembered Mindy’s simple but great zucchini salad with radish, zipped up with a shallot and lime-juice dressing. It sounds innocent enough, but it’s really simple zucchini genius as far as I’m concerned. Bright, fresh, satisfying. Later in the week, I might hit up her crab-stuffed grilled squid with shaved zucchini and fresh corn salad, too — and by Friday, my zucchini issues should be pretty well squashed. (Ha! Vegetable humor!)
Got some zucchini to mess around with in your crisper? Try this:
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
1 1/2 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Fine sea salt
1 pound small to medium zucchini
4 medium to large radishes
2 tablespoons very good extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
flaky coarse sea salt
In a small bowl, stir together the shallot, lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt. Let stand for 15 minutes. [Note: Do not skip this — it’s quick and easy and takes the sting out of the shallot, Fox once told me. Dig it!]
Meanwhile, on a slight diagonal, trim the ends of the zucchini, then slice crosswise, very thinly, preferably using an adjustable-blade slicer on its thinnest setting. [Note: I fear the mandolin and use a veggie peeler, which admittedly isn’t as good but seems to do the job okay.] Transfer the zucchini slices to a bowl and repeat with radishes. Add the oil and 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt to the vegetables, toss to combine, then add the lime juice mixture and toss once more.
Transfer the salad to a serving bowl and make sure to drizzle any leftover juices over the top. Sprinkle with cilantro and crush a couple of generous pinches of flaky coarse sea salt over the top.