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Raw zucchini salad with garlic, basil, and mint.
Raw zucchini salad with garlic, basil, and mint. Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty

While making dinner with friends earlier this summer, I asked how everyone would like the zucchini to be cooked. “How about not at all?” was the reply. One friend instead sliced the slender zucchini super thin, salted and drained the rounds, and dressed them simply with olive oil, lemon, and herbs. The dish was great — fresh, light, and focused on the vegetable’s subtly sweet flavor. Choose small zucchini with tiny seeds for these recipes.

RAW ZUCCHINI SALAD WITH GARLIC, BASIL, AND MINT

Makes about 8 cups

Serve this salad right after mixing it. You can add shaved Parmesan cheese for richness.

2½ pounds zucchini, trimmed and sliced into very thin rounds

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Salt and pepper

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic

1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

¼ cup each chopped fresh mint and basil

In a salad spinner basket set into its bowl (or colander set over a bowl), toss the zucchini with 1 teaspoon salt and set aside to drain, about 1 hour. Rinse well, then spin or blot dry. Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium heat, heat the oil and garlic, stirring constantly, until it just begins to sizzle, about 1 minute. Set aside off heat to cool to room temperature.

In a large bowl, toss the zucchini, oil and garlic, lemon juice, most of the mint and basil, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Spread on a large platter or in a large shallow bowl, sprinkle with the remaining mint and basil, and serve.

TIP: A mandoline or V-slicer (a slicer with its blades set in a V-shape, pictured) is handy for slicing zucchini consistently and very, very thinly — shoot for 1/16-inch rounds, almost paper thin. You can also use a vegetable peeler to shave thin strips for salads.
TIP: A mandoline or V-slicer (a slicer with its blades set in a V-shape, pictured) is handy for slicing zucchini consistently and very, very thinly — shoot for 1/16-inch rounds, almost paper thin. You can also use a vegetable peeler to shave thin strips for salads.Photograph by Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty

RAW ZUCCHINI SALAD WITH LEMON PESTO

Makes about 8 cups

2½ pounds zucchini, trimmed and sliced into very thin rounds

Salt and pepper

3 tablespoons pine nuts

2 medium garlic cloves, peeled

1 cup (lightly packed) basil leaves

½ cup (lightly packed) parsley leaves

1 teaspoon finely grated zest and 1½ tablespoons juice from 1 lemon

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¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan

In a salad spinner basket set into its bowl (or colander set over a bowl), toss the zucchini with 1 teaspoon salt and set aside to drain, about 1 hour. Rinse well, and spin or blot dry. Meanwhile, in a dry small skillet over medium heat, toast the pine nuts and garlic, stirring constantly, until the pine nuts turn light golden, about 3 minutes. Set aside off heat to cool to room temperature.

In a food processor, process the pine nuts, garlic, basil, parsley, lemon zest, and ¼ teaspoon salt, stopping as necessary to scrape down the bowl, until finely ground, about 1 minute. With the motor running, slowly add the lemon juice and oil, and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape the mixture into a medium bowl and stir in the Parmesan. Add pepper (and salt if needed) to taste; you should have about ¾ cup. Pesto can be covered with plastic wrap pressed onto its surface and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

In a large bowl, gently toss the zucchini and most of the pesto. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Spread on a large platter or in a large shallow bowl, top with the remaining pesto, and serve.

“SALSA CRUDA” ZUCCHINI SALAD

Makes about 7 cups

Adapted from Pasta e Verdura by Jack Bishop.

2 pounds zucchini, trimmed and cut into ¼-inch dice (about 5 cups)

Salt and pepper

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1½ pounds ripe tomatoes, cored, seeded, and roughly chopped (about 3 cups)

½ cup finely chopped shallots

1 teaspoon grated zest and 1½ tablespoons juice from 1 lemon

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

In a salad spinner basket set into its bowl (or colander set over a bowl), toss the zucchini with 1 teaspoon salt and set aside to drain, about 1 hour. Rinse well, and spin or blot dry. Meanwhile, in another strainer set over a bowl, toss the chopped tomatoes with ¼ teaspoon salt and set aside to drain, about 1 hour.

In a large bowl, mix the zucchini, tomatoes, shallots, lemon zest and juice, oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Toss in the mint and most of the parsley. Adjust the seasoning if necessary, sprinkle with the remaining parsley, and serve.


Adam Ried appears regularly on America’s Test Kitchen. Send comments to cooking@globe.com.