Spiralising zucchini into “noodles” often translates into a wan and watery dish, a poor imitation of the pasta it attempts to emulate.
Generally, it’s better to let an ingredient shine on its own merits. And for raw zucchini, we didn’t need to look far to find a better answer.
The Italians have done it for ages, reducing whole zucchini to paper-thin ribbons, then dressing them simply — some lemon juice, a bit of oil, maybe some honey, Parmesan, fresh herbs and nuts.
The effect is a fresh and vibrant salad made in minutes.
In this recipe from our book Milk Street Tuesday Nights, which limits recipes to 45 minutes or less, we use a vegetable peeler to slice zucchini into thin ribbons.
The zucchini really shines, balanced with the clean, sharp flavours of a lemony dressing along with Parmesan and hazelnuts.
The hazelnuts — or almonds, if that’s what you have on hand — give the salad crunch and a slightly buttery note.
Don’t worry if the ribbons vary in width; this adds to the visual appeal of the dish. And don’t dress the salad until you are ready to serve. The zucchini and herbs are delicate and quickly wilt.
Shaved Zucchini and Herb Salad with Parmesan
Start to finish: 20 minutes
1 tsp grated lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons juice (1 lemon)
3 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp honey
1 lb zucchini (2 medium)
1 oz Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about 1/2 cup), plus shaved to serve
1/2 cup lightly packed mint, torn
1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil, torn
1/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and roughly chopped
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon zest and juice, oil, honey, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Set aside. Use a Y-style peeler or mandoline to shave the zucchini from top to bottom into ribbons; rotating as you go. Stop shaving when you reach the seedy core. Discard the cores.
To the dressing, add the shaved zucchini, grated cheese, mint and basil, then toss until evenly coated. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with shaved Parmesan and hazelnuts.
By Christopher Kimball