The spiralizing fad may have popularized raw zucchini dishes, but it certainly didn’t perfect them. Too often those zucchini “noodles” taste wan and watery, a far cry from the pasta they emulate.
And that’s the trouble with forgery. Nobody is fooled. 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 to so-called zoodles.
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 fresh and vibrant, a salad—made in minutes—unashamed of what it is.
It’s a tried-and-true formula we see over and again. At the Thames-side Tuscan restaurant The River Cafe, Ruth Rogers serves a spare, lemony, arugula-studded zucchini carpaccio. In Argentina, Francis Mallmann generously oils thin slices of zucchini, spreads them on a large platter, then sprinkles them with torn mint leaves and toasted hazelnuts. Back in London, Yotam Ottolenghi subtracts lemon from the equation and adds basil, balsamic vinegar and hazelnut oil.
For our take, we combined the bright lemon dressing from The River Cafe’s salad with the hazelnut accents in Mallmann and Ottolenghi’s recipes—and we used both mint and basil. A full ounce of finely grated Parmesan added salty savoriness. The hazelnuts—or almonds, if that’s what you have on hand—gave the salad crunch and a slightly buttery note.
There is just one caveat to this recipe: Wait until the last minute to combine the zucchini and dressing. The herbs and delicate, thin vegetables will wilt as they sit.