Zucchini-Noodle Salad

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Recently I went to a staff party and brought zucchini salad.  Everyone (ie. those who cook at home) wanted to know what was in it.  I dutifully told them – zucchini, tomato, balsamic vinegar, garlic, basil etc..  But what I didn’t tell them, and what I feel is so essential, is the quality, the state, the life-force of this seemingly-mundane list of ingredients.

For instance – if they went home and made this salad with limp sad supermarket zucchini, mealy tomatoes shipped underripe, waxed and slave-laboured from California and papery mould-spotted Chinese garlic devoid of any life  – well, that salad would not sing.

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I pick the small tight zucchinis that have popped up overnight from rain.  I use only zucchinis and tomatoes that I’ve harvested that very day.  I use this year’s fresh-pulled garlic, oozing moisture, crisp as an apple.  I add just-picked / chopped globe basil at the finish.  I use a very high quality aged balsamic vinegar.

But now I’m sounding snobby.

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I’m snobby for one reason only.  Because I want the best.  Because I want it to taste divine.  Because I know how good it can be.

And that’s my reason to garden.

If i didn’t, I wouldn’t be eating that amazing salad every other late-September day.  I wouldn’t be eating so well, so joyfully and so beautifully connected with my food.  I’ve got the best supermarket in my own backyard.

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We have 6 hens now and 3 Indian Runner Ducks.  I am spoiled by breakfast eggs so fresh (minutes old, still warm from the hen’s body), firm and fleshy, with yolks that stick up bright orange and radiant.

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The morning after the staff party, everyone went to a diner to have the typical hangover breakfast.

I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t go back to those thin flaccid-pale yolks, that processed soggy white bread, pesticided potatoes and grainy side of tomato.

I want nourishment.  I want food that makes my body feel good.

I want to feel love for what I eat.

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Zucchini-Noodle Salad

2 medium zucchini (about 1 pound)
2 medium tomatoes (about 1/2 pound)
3-4 basil leaves (or 1 Tablespoon globe basil)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 small shallot, finely chopped (optional)
3/4 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Top and tail the zucchinis and use a peeler to make strips.  (This will take a few minutes).  Once you get down to the seedy core, you can stop peeling.  (We feed the cores to the chickens and ducks).IMG_1256

Put the zucchini noodles in a bowl and mix with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt.  Massage the salt into the noodles, then put in a strainer (placed over a bowl) to let the juices seep out.  Let sit for 15 minutes, then squeeze the zucchini noodles to extract excess liquid.*

Meanwhile, mix the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper in a small bowl.  Add the garlic and shallot and let the dressing sit for a few minutes to mellow.

Dice the tomatoes and fine-chop the basil.

Toss the zucchini noodles with the tomatoes, the basil and the dressing.  Adjust the salt and pepper.

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*You don’t have to do the salting step, but if you don’t, you should eat the salad right after it’s put together, otherwise you end up with a salad swimming in zucchini juices.  If you want to skip the pre-salting / sweating of the zucchini noodles, add the whole amount of salt to the salad dressing.

(But) when you make the salad with the pre-salted / sweated zucchinis, it ends up denser, more like a bruschetta topping.  You can spoon it on bread or crostini.

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Happy fall!

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