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October, 2009

Zucchini

By Heidi Allison

If you need to get dinner on the table in less than 10 minutes, this is your new go-to recipe.

Zucchini
This light and refreshing salad (which doubles as a side dish) will pull you out of that time crunch fast; just pair it with a precooked rotisserie chicken and you’re eating a quick, healthy meal. While zucchini is usually served cooked – steamed, boiled, grilled, stuffed and baked, barbecued or fried – this cutting-edge recipe uses it raw. The secret is using young fruit (botanically zucchini is a fruit) – either baby zucchini or zucc’s no longer than 6-8 inches – which are less fibrous, and quickly soaking them in lemon juice. The acid in the lemon juice gently ”cooks” , or softens the flesh of the summer squash in 10 minutes to the point of a soft al dente, at which point, the oil and seasonings are added. And, unless you have professional knife skills, it is crucial that you use a mandolin or Japanese Benriner, using the ¼-inch blade setting – a thin julienne cut, which allows the acid in the lemon to quickly break down the squash’s crunch to a softer, almost silky texture. This sophisticated side also doubles as a great sandwich topping – try it over slices of medium-rare roasted lamb with heirloom tomatoes on a toasted ciabatta.

But zucchini brings more to the table than just good taste – it also provides protection from heart disease, cancer and promotes men’s health. Recent research discovered that the phytochemicals in this squash reduce the symptoms of benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), a condition in which men’s prostrate gland becomes enlarged, making urination and sexual function more problematic. Zucchini is also an excellent source of manganese (one of the best natural sources of this element/mineral) and potassium, and supplies good doses of vitamins C, B1 and B6, along with fiber, folate, copper, magnesium, iron, Vitamins A and K, calcium and niacin. This nutritional profile is believed to have anti-aging properties. According to a study at Chicago ’s Rush Medical Center , researchers discovered that zucchini’s antioxidants improved memory and other age-related processes up to 40 percent. It appears that the combination of vitamins E and A with omega -3 fatty acids stimulates absorption of antioxidants and assists in effective brain reconstruction.

Matchstick Yellow and Green Zucchini Salad with Meyer Lemon, Grape Seed Oil and Fresh Mint
Matchstick Yellow and Green Zucchini Salad with Meyer Lemon, Grape Seed Oil and Fresh Mint
Makes: 1 cup; serves 2

1 medium green zucchini
1 medium yellow zucchini
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
Zest of 1 Meyer lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
1 Tbsp. grape seed oil
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. agave nectar
1 Tbsp. mint, chiffonade

Preparation:
Grate zucchini using a Japanese Benriner or a mandolin, set on the ¼-inch blade setting, julienne into matchsticks over a large bowl. Add lemon juice and zest, toss and cover with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for 10 minutes. Remove zucchini from refrigerator and add salt, oil, agave nectar and gently toss with tongs to combine. Top with mint and toss again. Plate and serve immediately.