Here in the Northeast, where our winters get frigidly cold and our summers are known to snap into the high 90s for days on end, I have a somewhat sinister theory about the weather, and that is that it’s mocking you. It’s waiting for you to snap and when you do, it has a hearty laugh at your expense. Bust out the ski jacket, 20-foot scarf and Gore-Tex accessories the first cold day in October? Snicker, snicker. Sink down in front of the a/c with a bag of ice on your forehead the first 90-degree, 100 percent humidity day in June? Imagine the sun’s Mr. Burns-ian cackle, muttering “excellent.”
I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but hoo boy, is it hot up in NYC right now–and it’s not even June yet, which means that it’s too soon to succumb to bowls of icy granita and dinners of frozen grapes and proscuitto-wrapped melon. Fold your cards now, and what will you do when summer really steps up to the plate (and God-willing, the Yankees) in July? Nope, no, can’t have it. But it doesn’t mean that tonight is not as good of a night as any to take a step back from the stove with something I fell upon two nights ago that was so gorgeously simple and different, I could imagine it keeping us cool all summer.
My recent madoline purchase is giving me an excuse to delve into a surprising volume of recipes that are a hundred times more successful/less labor with a fierce blade. I’m always loathe to promote gizmos and gadgets–my logic being that all of our grandmothers cooked just fine without them–but I can’t imagine that paper-thin zucchini slices would be much fun to create without it. Though I’ve never had tuna or beef carpaccio before, I won’t even pretend that a zucchini variation is anything but comparing apples and oranges. But damn, was it delicious.
After slicing a few zucchini into translucent coins, you salt and rest them for a while before draining and rinsing them. What this leaves you with is zucchini like I’ve never seen it before–fabric-like pieces that bend and fold, but retain enough structure that they’re nothing like the overcooked summer squash we’ve all had the displeasure of experiencing. Once you pat it dry (we were out of paper towels, thus I missed this step, and did regret it as the dressing slid too easily off), you toss it with a heaping pile of baby arugula, shredded parmesan, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. We ate it alongside fried baby artichokes (siiiigh), but I can imagine it would pair equally well with some cured meats, baguette slices and a tomato/bean salad, or whatever your vision of a heat wave menu should be, so long as keeps you on this side of being mocked for a premature summer meltdown.
Zucchini Carpaccio Salad
Adapted from Gourmet, July 2006
1 1/2 pound zucchini (about 3 large)*
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 pound arugula, stems discarded and leaves cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips (6 cups)
1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, coarsely grated (on large holes of a box grater; 1/2 cup)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Special equipment: an adjustable-blade slicer
Cut zucchini crosswise into paper-thin slices with slicer. Toss zucchini slices with one teaspoon salt in a large colander set over a bowl and let drain 20 minutes.
Rinse zucchini slices well, then drain, pressing gently on slices to extract any excess liquid. Pat zucchini slices dry with a kitchen towel.
Put arugula greens in a large bowl. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Drizzle 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil over greens and toss. Arrange zucchini slices over arugula greens, then drizzle with remaining oil, lemon juice and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and pepper.
* A delicious and colorful variation could include yellow summer squash, as well.