Friday, September 19, 2008

50. Zucchini "Carpaccio" (p. 591)

I never thought that I'd be able to get my wife to eat carpaccio, but I did it. Who cares if the main ingredient was zucchini instead of raw beef, I can still say that I served my "no-red-meat-thank-you-very-much" wife carpaccio, and she liked it.

With the end of summer quickly approaching, I wanted to take full advantage of the last few weeks of the Downtown Manchester Farmers Market, so I've been paying particular attention to The Book's "Vegetables" chapter. I decided that this recipe* would be an excellent use for the zucchini that is plentiful these days.

This recipe is a unique vegetarian take on the traditional dish of thinly-sliced raw beef, veal or tuna, which has been pounded flat and served with dressing and garnish as a fancy first course. According to Wikipedia, carpaccio has a storied past. Two restaurants, Harry's Bar in Venice, and Savini Restaurant in Milan, both claim to have invented the dish. Curiously, both restaurants' stories of the dish's creation are oddly similar, and involve a wealthy woman instructed by her doctor to eat only raw meat. (Why a doctor would do that is beyond me. Maybe she wasn't getting her recommended daily allowance of e. coli and salmonella?) Both stories also attribute the dish's name to the Italian Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio. In the Harry's Bar version of the story, the colors of the dish reminded the chef of Carpaccio's paintings. In the Savini story, the prim-and-proper patron found it unladylike to order "raw meat" in a fancy restaurant, and so a Carpaccio painting hanging near by inspired her to choose the artist's name as a "code word" for the dish.

The recipe calls for slicing zucchini into paper-thin slices on a mandoline. I used my as-seen-on-TV Super Slicer, with great success this time to get pretty thin slices. I arranged the slices in a pretty pattern on a serving plate and topped them with some fresh arugula. I drizzled on some extra virgin olive oil and white balsamic vinegar. Finally, I finished it off with some shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, pepper and fleur de sel.

This was a pretty good dish. It was very light ... but maybe too light. The Book says that the balsamic is optional. I think that it's essential, and in fact it could have used more. I really love arugula with it's peppery bite, and the zucchini was good too. You have to understand, that means a lot coming from me. As an ardent foodie, there aren't too many foods I don't like. Sea urchin roe is one, and raw zucchini is another. I love zucchini grilled, baked, sauteed, stir-fried, steamed, and tempura-style, but there's just something about the taste and texture of raw zucchini that I can't stand. That is, until now. This dish just may have turned the tide of my raw-zucchini aversion.

Don't expect to see me eating sea urchin roe any time soon, though.

Date Cooked: September 13, 2008
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Rating: B

* The ingredients in the recipe are almost identical to the recipe in The Book, but the presentation is completely different.

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