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October, 2012

Shaved Zucchini Salad with Walnuts and Feta

By Heidi Allison

Easy on the budget, this simple, ingenious dish will be your new go-to recipe for busy weekdays!

Zucchini

Although raw zucchini doesn’t sound like a great idea, in this recipe, it rocks! Rather than taking the time to steam, boil or bake this veggie, the zucchini is sliced paper thin and “cooked” in an acid— much the same way raw fish is prepared in Ceviche. Not only does the acid (white Balsamic vinegar) soften the zucchini’s tough, woody texture to a silky smooth mouth feel, it does double duty by also seasoning this summer squash’s rather bland flavor. Another reason to add this dish to your culinary repertoire: it takes very little time to prepare—just slice and serve. Easy on the budget, this simple, ingenious dish will be your new go-to recipe for busy weekdays!

This recipe couldn’t be easier— no cooking required— just slice, briefly marinate and serve. However, the trick is getting the thickness of the slice to ¼-inch (or less), which is best achieved with the use of a Mandoline or Japanese Benriner (Trust me, do not try this with a sharp knife— you won’t get the uniform thickness this dish requires. Unless you have the knife skills of a master Sushi chef, you will be left with soft and hard texture in the zucchini— not a good thing.) Once you get the technique down, you can change up the flavor profile by substituting fresh lemon juice for the balsamic, and switching out the feta and walnuts with toasted pine nuts and goat cheese as the garnish. Although fresh French Tarragon was chosen for this recipe because its sweet anise-like flavor perfectly complements the sweet taste of the white balsamic vinegar, a chiffonade of fresh Basil would be a great substitute for the pine nuts and goat cheese variation.

This dish offers more than just great taste—1 cup of zucchini is an excellent source of fiber, and contains almost 20 percent of your daily value of manganese, which is important for creating blood-clotting factors, tissue, bones and sex hormones. Manganese is also required for proper fat and carbohydrate metabolism, as well as healthy nerve and brain function. Zucchini also contains 10 percent of the recommended daily value for magnesium and potassium, essential for proper cellular function and bone formation, along with vitamins C, A and K and a range of B vitamins—B1, B2, B3, B6 and folate (B9).

Shaved Zucchini Salad with Walnuts and Feta
Serves: 4

Ingredients
:
4 medium Zucchinis, rinsed and ends removed
2/3-1 cup White Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp. Kosher Flake Salt
4 Yellow Bell Peppers, cut in half, seeded; then sliced lengthwise into ¼-inch slices
4 Tablespoons Walnuts, chopped
Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
3 Tablespoons fresh Tarragon, minced
1/3 cup Feta cheese (preferably French or Bulgarian Feta), crumbled

Preparation:
Place a mandolin or Japanese Benriner over a large bowl, and slice the zucchini into ¼-inch thin slices. Lay zucchini slices in a 9x13-inch dish and film with white Balsamic vinegar, then sprinkle lightly with Kosher flake salt. Repeat until all the zucchini is finished.

In a separate bowl, place sliced bell pepper and season with 1/3 cup vinegar and a sprinkle of Kosher salt and black pepper. Cover both bowls with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until soft and seasoned—about 15 minutes.

On a chilled salad plate, fold over zucchini ends until they touch each other, and lay along the perimeter of the plate, with the folded ends facing the center of the plate. Place seasoned bell pepper slices in a mound in the center; then garnish with tarragon, feta and walnuts. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of balsamic over each plate and lightly sprinkle with Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and serve.