I’m a Southerner by birth and upbringing, and even though I left the South a long time ago, my approach to food is still heavily influenced by my time in the South. For whatever reason, we didn’t do a lot of Soul Food cooking in my house (my heart and my arteries say thank you for that), but we did do a lot of what I think of us Good Down Home Cookin’, and the heart of Good Down Home Cookin’ is good, farmer’s market ingredients, though when I was growing up, it wasn’t as fancy as all of that. We would just stop whenever we saw a food stand on the side of the road and buy whatever yumminess they had: corn, sweet red tomatoes, pecans, which some folks pronounce pea-cans, as in pea-can pie. I am still a sucker for farm fresh ingredients. In the summer, I can make a whole meal of them. I was a vegetarian for ten years, so I don’t even have to have meat on the side to feel satisfied, though if I’ve got a hankering for meat, I can always put some on the grill. Summer and summer cooking is all about making life easy-peasy. It’s about lounging and relaxing and turning food prep into a moving meditation.
One of my favorite summer recipes is Zucchini Mint Salad. You can make it a lot of ways, using whatever you have. The recipe I’m going to share uses mint, parsley, pecorino and green olives, but you can make it with parmesan, goat cheese or feta if you have those on hand, and you can totally substitute black olives for green ones. I don’t remember where I found this recipe, but it’s one of my all time favorites. I hope you enjoy making it and eating it as much as I do.
8 young zucchini
handful of parsley leaves, torn by hand
handful of mint leaves, torn by hand
1/2 c pitted green olives, coarsely chopped
good quality pecorino cheese
extra virgin olive oil
If you have a mandoline, use the thin slicing blade. For those of you who don’t know what a mandoline is (and there’s no shame in that), it’s one of those slicers that looks like a little sliding board and you run your vegetable across it to make perfect, even little slices. An inexpensive plastic one will do the trick, but if you want to get fancy, they make them in stainless steel and sell them at little fancy outlets like William Sonoma. I got mine at Home Goods for maybe fifteen bucks and it’s gotten the job done for years.
Begin by turning your zucchini the long way and slide it down the mandoline to make perfect ribbons. Or just use a knife, and slice the zucchini as thinly and evenly as you can.
Salt your zucchini ribbons lightly and place in a colander to drain for 15 minutes. Don’t skip this step. It really makes a difference in how delicious your salad is.
After the zucchini has finished draining, it should be a bit wilted and have a lightly seasoned taste. Transfer the zucchini to a mixing bowl, add the parsley, mint and green olives. Dress with the olive oil and lemon juice (fresh is best), mix well, and place on your serving dish. Garnish with pecorino and fresh cracked pepper and enjoy!
PAULA PURYEAR is a Lawyer, Film & Television writer, HuffPoster and Founder of Revel In It Mag.