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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
*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.