Wednesday, 20 June 2012 | 19 comments

Zucchini crudo

Have you ever seen the Federico Fellini film, La Dolce Vita? There’s this iconic scene where ridiculously glamorous Anita Ekberg hops into the Trevi Fountain, clad in a full-length black evening gown. She wades around, oozing this beautiful-and-damned carelessness, full skirt wilted and clinging to her legs, arms thrown wide, embracing the night. Minus the extreme bustiness, I can almost remember a time when I felt like that: arms open, unworried about tomorrow, taking it all in.At the risk of sounding disingenuous—I am only, after all, in my mid-twenties—that carefree embrace of the world seems very far away, most days. My passions have become tempered with a concerned urgency. Even my motivation to cook, which remains a happy place in my life, is more utilitarian nowadays. Kinda boring and sad, huh? I am a bit of an old soul, and I’ll be the first to admit, but certainly being (or feeling) old doesn’t preclude a na├»ve sense of wonder.If there is ever a time to reignite that arms-flung-wide sense of wonder, though, it is summer. We wear very little, splash around, eat with our hands and spit out the seeds. This weekend was my first taste of that this year: wading, eating around a newsprint-covered table, living outside from dawn to dusk. The early summer vegetables are coming, too, and their color and texture are panacea for kitchen utilitarianism—because the best part about summer veggies is that you have to do so little to them to enjoy them. This is important, as it leaves more time for bare feet and lightning bug watching. The first baby zucchinis have arrived at a farm down the road from us, and I picked up more than I really needed. I’ve been making a really simple salad with it (if you can even call it a salad), one that I’ve taken to calling “zucchini crudo”, since, like Italian foods dubbed with the same adjective, the zucchini is kept raw and sliced thinly onto the plate. A bright, garlicky parsley pesto cuts the creaminess of the raw squash. People are of mixed opinions about raw squash, which I’ve never really understood, but if you count yourself in the “dislike” camp, I’d suggest trying to find very small, baby zucchinis, which are sweeter and less pithy. Slicing the zucchini lengthwise and very thinly, this way, makes the “salad” something akin to sheets of paper-thin pasta, perfect for slicking with a bit of olive oil. I’ve seen recipes for raw squash that call for salting and “sweating” the zucchini beforehand, but I don’t think there is much of a difference. Like summer, with this sort of thing, less is really more.

Zucchini crudo with parsley pesto

You will need

    4 small zucchini
    1 cup loosely packed parsley leaves (some stems are okay, too) + more for garnish
    Approximately 2 tablespoons olive oil + more for drizzling
    1 teaspoon lemon juice
    1 clove of garlic, peeled
    Kosher salt


    Remove the stem ends from the zucchini. Using a mandoline (alternatively, you can use a sharp knife to carefully cut thin slices), slice the zucchini lengthwise into long, thin strips, about 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thick. Arrange the strips on individual plates or on a platter. (I like to arrange mine linearly, but you can tumble them together as well.)

    In a food processor, whirl the 1 cup parsley, 2 tablespoons olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic. The pesto should be thick, but not pasty. If you think it needs more oil to thin it out a bit, add it and pulse a few more times. Taste for salt, and add salt if desired.

    Dollop the pesto onto the sliced zucchini liberally. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil, and garnish with parsley leaves. Serve immediately.

    Yield: 4 small salads, or a big salad for 2.

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§ 19 responses to Zucchini crudo

  • Still in my twenties yet a bit of an old soul/worrier, and also able to recall an evening-dress-in-the-fountain-sans-bustiness time, I am with you all the way. (I love raw zucchini, too.)

    Thanks for the reminder that summer is good for wonder. x0

  • Is it wrong that I didn’t even know you could eat zucchini raw!? Whoops!

  • You can place me firmly in the raw squash loving group! I make salads like this all Summer long. Also, I’m an old soul too. Happy Summer and happy solstice to you!

  • I am always inspired by your beautiful presentation. You’re right. Less is more; and summer produce epitomizes that philosophy.

  • This looks so fresh and delicious. It’s winter here, so I’m jealously hoarding this idea away for our summer. Enjoy the sun.

  • Sharon

    I utterly adore what you write plus your images too (and maybe have said this before ;)
    However, this time … I wanted to comment on your reference to Fellini’s ‘La Dolce Vita’. If you ever come across a Spanish movie/DVD titled ‘Elsa and Fred’, do try to watch it . It is a superb film about a man and woman in their 70s who meet rather fortuitously in a shared apartment complex. At one stage, the older woman (well, older than him haha) pays homage to that scene in Fellini’s film and it ‘s simply marvellous. Here’s a link to the movie:

  • I spent last weekend in Rhode Island, wandering around barefoot, picking up shells on the beach, sitting with my face in the shade and my feet in the sun. It was relaxing and in a lot of ways refreshing. As you were eating zucchini I was eating chard by the bunch, lightly steaming it and topping it with a touch of butter. Wonderful post.

  • What a lovely post. Beautiful, descriptive writing. You’ve really captured what summer is all about. I have to say, I’ve never tried raw squash but I’m going to try it this summer. I always believe less is more….about everything really. Thanks for sharing.

  • Yay, parsley pesto! I love making it, and what a good idea to put it on zucchini. Love your photos and your attitude.

  • Mmm. Resonating deeply, my friend. I need more people like you in my life.

  • Your zucchini crudo looks simplistic and fresh – the epitome of what summer is about.

  • Lovely post and musings. Your zucchini dish is kind of like the zucchini ‘carpaccio’ that I make – a lot like it, actually, down to the adopted Italian name. But my zucchini slices are round; I’d never thought of trying to slice them lenthwise, which has a nice surprising geometric look. You’ve reminded me to try to get my hands on a zucchini plant somewhere. Thanks!

  • Val

    The abundance of the summer veggies — and fruits — really are so much about renewal. I’m really liking the ease and simplicity of the recipe. So perfect for this heat too!

  • I don’t think I’ve ever had raw summer squash before. I’m sure this recipe will come in handy with the next heat wave.
    I hope there’s more wonder in store for you this season.

  • Love you ideas! This will be fun to try for lunch tomorrow.

  • I love the idea of this, and the Fellini reference! I’ve never tried raw zucchini-(a vegetable that I don’t often care for cooked as it gets waterlogged) but this looks so fresh and bright and delicious!

  • I absolutely love reading your blog. It is so well written, the topics always strike a chord with me (I also love food, community and beauty), and it is just so gorgeous. Thank you.

    My favorite thing to do with zucchini: Grill it with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, lay it on a platter with slices of luscious mozzarella, drizzle the whole thing with olive oil, sprinkle some fresh mint on there, and serve it with grilled bread rubbed with garlic. Oh my…it is a real treat.

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