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 Who ever said good nutrition has to be dull?  Raw zucchini is highly alkalizing, rich in fiber and low in calories, containing only about 20 per cup.  It provides a little incomplete protein (2 grams), which the cheese in this recipe will boost, roughly one-third of the RDA for vitamin C, a bit of vitamins A and K, two important carotenoids—lutein and zeaxanthin—some B2 (riboflavin) and B6 (pyridoxine), potassium and manganese.

Romanesco zucchini

This refreshing, sophisticated recipe, which I picked up on a hot afternoon at Ristorante Leo in Florence, is best made with Romanesco zucchini, the ribbed variety that produces all the flowers.  It is not as prolific as more commercial types; so look for it at farmer’s markets and specialty produce stores, or grow your own. It has marvelous flavor and a firm,crisp texture, which holds up well even with cooking. Also, choose the youngest, sweetest onions you can find and shave them paper thin.  Serves 4 as a first course.

  • 3 small or 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 or 2 small sweet white onions, about 2 inches in diameter
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 ounces shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, aged Pecorino Romano or Manchego
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons white truffle oil (optional but desirable)
  1. Using a mandolin, a swivel-bladed vegetable peeler, or the slicing blade of a box grater, shave the zucchini lengthwise into very thin, wide ribbons. Thinly slice the onion.
  2. Toss the zucchini and onion with the lemon juice and olive oil. Season lightly with salt and generously with freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Arrange the salad on 4 plates. Scatter the cheese over the zucchini and drizzle the truffle oil on top. Serve at room temperature or lightly chilled.

    Zucchini Salad with Parmesan Cheese and Truffle Oil