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.
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)
- 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.
- Toss the zucchini and onion with the lemon juice and olive oil. Season lightly with salt and generously with freshly ground black pepper.
- 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.