For the second dish in our trilogy today, we took on a recipe from Dr. Philip Tirman’s The Wine and Food Lover’s Diet. This is a cookbook that we picked up because the concepts behind it really mesh well with our belief in the value of ‘whole foods’ – foods that start out as close to their natural state as possible before we prepare them.
Whenever we feel like we’ve been overindulging, we try to spend a week eating things like roasted chicken, salads, and other dishes that celebrate the quality of the ingredients instead of the chef’s skills. In doing so, we also cut out things like breads, pastas, and processed products. At the end of a week, we always find ourselves revived and feeling healthier once again.
With the mint and pea risotto as the other side, we felt like we should definitely go with something fresh and light. This warm zucchini salad hit all the right notes.
We started out by toasting two tablespoons of pine nuts in our toaster oven (we find this much easier than doing it in a skillet on the stove). Once they were nice and toasty, we set these garnishes-to-be off to the side. We then proceeded to chiffonade ten large basil leaves, rolling them up and then cutting them crosswise into thin strips. They got set aside, as well.
And then we got to break out one of my favorite kitchen gadgets – the mandoline slicer. We cut the tops and bottoms off of two medium zucchini and then proceeded to run them lengthwise along the slicer, basically shaving off thin strips of zucchini with every slice. When we were finished, we had a large pile of zucchini strips that the good doctor describes as ‘resembling wide noodles.’ We put these aside, too, but only temporarily.
In a wok (we had quite a few pans going at this time and were out of appropriately-sized options), we warmed one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and then added one finely chopped shallot. We let that cook for two minutes before adding one small bell pepper, which we had seeded and cut into a fine dice. Those pieces cooked for an additional two minutes before we grabbed up all of those zucchini slices and added them to the mix. They got another two minutes on the heat as we stirred everything around gently.
We skipped the tablespoon of butter that the recipe called for at this point, moving straight to the one and a half teaspoons of Dijon mustard that got added to the vegetables and stirred in until it had coated everything. At that point we added in about a half a pint of cherry tomatoes, which we cut into halves before adding them to the wok for a brief (1-2 minutes) heating. Some salt and pepper, and the warm zucchini portion of the salad was good to go.
From there it was just a matter of plating some salad greens and arranging the cooked vegetables on top. The basil strips and pine nuts got sprinkled over the top of everything, and we chose to forego the freshly grated Parmesan cheese that the recipe calls for in light of everything else we had happening on our plates.
The salad was great – it still had all those garden-fresh flavors from the vegetables, but the cooking added some depth and made this more than just a salad. It held its own against the richness of the risotto and the bold, meaty flavor of the slow-braised short ribs that will be our third and final recipe of the day.