Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What we eat in the land of plenty

Right after college I moved to the Boston area (Somerville, pronounced by the locals Sumaville) sheerly for lack of better options. While it might have been better to be armed with a little more purpose and direction, it turned out well. As a California beach girl (you'd never know it now) who graduated from Beach High only to attend Beach University, recently dubbed one of the sexiest colleges in the country, a New England urban environment was instructive.

I went from here

to here. It was really weird.

I rode a subway. Took taxis to the dentist. Learned that you don't have to be in the Middle East for people to be very concerned about your religion. Realized that California really is the Land of Food. Especially when it comes to produce. Not that other parts of the country do not have good produce some of the time (relatives in Utah grew the best summer corn ever in their garden), but we have really good produce almost all of the time.

Imagine my shock then when fresh off the plane in the late fall (why waste a perfectly good summer of southern California beach weather to grow up?) I marched up to the produce manager at the local Star Market (pronounced to my delight Stah Mahket) and demanded the location of the zucchini. What zucchini, he wanted to know. It was the wrong season. Huh? I knew peaches had a season, but zucchini? That was sort of like hearing that lettuce was not available. In California, you can have zucchini from not too far away all year round. And so I eat it all year round.

Usually I eat it like this: roasted. I toss it with things like pine nuts, capers, fresh herb, grated cheese. It's like tofu—good with just about anything. Sometimes I shred it up and pretend I'm making hash browns, except they're green.

But now I'm also eating it like this, which you can do without cooking a thing. For all the hot weather the rest of the country's been getting and I am expecting now that it's officially fall, that can be a good thing.

A plain old vegetable peeler makes nice long strips. I toss the core because it's mostly just seeds and water.

Tossed with a lemony dressing and then topped with pine nuts, cheese, and fresh herbs, this tasty and pretty side to almost anything.

Shaved Zucchini Salad with Parmesan and Pine Nuts
Adapted from Bon Appetit, August 2010

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds medium zucchini, trimmed
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Small wedge of Parmesan cheese

Whisk oil, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper in small bowl to blend. Set dressing aside.

Using vegetable peeler, slice zucchini into ribbons, turning the squash as you go. Discard the core of each squash.

Place ribbons in large bowl. Add dressing; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Using vegetable peeler, shave strips from Parmesan wedge over salad. Top with basil and nuts.

A lot of people have tastes associated with places. I have a lack of taste associated with New England: standing in that market, wanting zucchini, and being told there was none. Don't tell my family I came back to California for the squash. Don't tell the avocados either.


k e r r y said...

Squash and zucchini are my favorite vegetables... and I love pine nuts so this is is a perfect recipe for me!

Preppy Pink Crocodile said...

How funny. I'm from the northeast and we call zucchini and yellow squash and the like "summer squash" because that's when it's available. Sort of like every soda is a "coke" down south. Acron and butternut (my two favs) are called "winter squash" even though they are really late summer/fall.

Heather Ozee said...

I'm not a fan of zucchini, but I think I might like it made this way.

ANFQ said...

OK- off cooking for a bit and onto skiing- we are looking at MAYBE planning an out west ski trip and wondering what your snow is like the week before Christmas.....any trip we take will need to involve the location with the cheapest airfare!

Morgan said...

I just stumbled on your blog and your intro to this post had me hooked! I lived in a little apartment in Davis Square for a summer in college. I've also made this same recipe, although I didn't love it. I don't think I like raw zucchini, but I like the idea for zucchini hash browns.

Kate said...

Well we do have fantastic apples & cheese! I know what you mean makes me sad to go from October through June without fresh tomatoes...but they come from so far away they are just horrible!

Carol said...

I lived in the outskirts of the Boston area, about 20 min. north of it for 50 years and moved to Southern California 14 years ago.
I could never go back to ice and snow and shoveling that whole mess. Like you, I love all the fresh produce here in CA! Love being close to the ocean, harbors and beaches.
New England does have the best apples!!!!!! I used to love making apple pies and crisps. Your zucchini recipes look delicious! Thank you!

adozeneggs said...

Ok, love the recipes, but I'm from Boston and I don't pronounce it Stah Mahket, or Somahville. HA. Never did. Despite my parents who both have terrible Boston accents.
anyway, it is unfortunate that we don't have tomatoes, zucchini and berries all year round.
Like everyone says though we have great cheese,apples, pumpkins, apple cider. (Especially in VT).
hey...we are getting more snow today. yay.