Back in the day, about 5 months ago, it was my birthday. You might remember this from the not-so-subtle hints about cooking gadget presents that peppered my posts around that time. Now, being that I am, well, me, I decided to make my own birthday dinner. If you’ve read the title of this post, you will know it is NOT about that meal because the chances of me making a birthday meal that involves a dish whose first word is zucchini are about as good as a snowball’s chance in my apartment mid-July. It is about the meal from the day before, and over my dead body will I post about my actual birthday dinner because that would entail giving away my secret family Mac ‘n Cheese recipe. And that just ain’t gonna happen folks. Anyway, the night before the big day a dear friend accompanied me to one of our favorite East Village haunts, The Smith. I usually just go there for the potato waffles (not pancakes, waffles) and two-for-one Bloody Mary’s on Sunday afternoons (not mornings, as you can’t purchase alcohol in New York before noon on a Sunday – temperance WHAT?), but I’d heard their dinner menu was nothing to sneeze at, so off we went. Being as this was my birthday and they had a dish on the menu that involved something called jalapeno cheddar grits, I wasn’t about to pass that up, but fortunately Kerry was in the mood for a lighter option and went with the Zucchini Linguine. I thought she just ordered it because she knows how much I love things that rhyme, but, turned out, IT WAS DELICIOUS. Long, thin strands (one might say “linguine-like”) of zucchini tossed with shaved parmigiano-reggiano, toasted pine nuts, and a healthy swirl of olive oil, it was somehow both refreshing and decadent. Not that I wasn’t happy with my shrimp and grits and subsequent ice cream sundae, but man that was good. I vowed to make it immediately. Then I went to California, Italy and California again and promptly forgot all about it.
Fast forward. It’s now mid-July. The Farmer’s Markets are overflowing with squashes and the temperature of my apartment is so high that turning on the stove, let alone the oven might actually constitute self-abuse (not to mention the charges my roommates could file). I had a particularly nice-looking zucchini from the McCarren Greenmarket on my counter, and suddenly thoughts of this pre-birthday dinner came flying back to me. I dug out a lemon, found some cheese in the fridge and went to go slice up my zuke. Unfortunately I had not refrigerated my veggies and it had turned to mush in a matter of hours. July 23, 2010 – I don’t know if it was hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk, but it was certainly hot enough to roast a zucchini on your kitchen counter.
But the next time I bought a zucchini I was ready. Into the fridge it went until I came home from the gym the next day tired, hungry and in NO mood to actually cook anything. Well, except for the half used bag of sliced almonds (left over from a heavenly broccoli slaw from the weekend before – more on that later) I toasted up. The first time I made this dish I sliced the zucchini on the wide side of my grater, but a vegetable peeler works just as well and in fact might be a little easier on the knuckles. Either way, it yields wide strips of zucchini the length of the squash that vaguely resemble that oh so delicious cut of pasta, tagliatelle. Actually it might be a little more like pappardelle, but I like tagliatelle better because it’s a little harder to pronounce and I like to throw around my 3.5 years of college Italian whenever I can.
So, you’ve got your toasted almonds and your zucchini slices. Toss these together with a handful of grated cheese (I’ve used pecorino and parmesan – I actually felt the pecorino worked a little better, but both were delish). Squeeze the juice of one lemon, add an equal amount of olive oil, a dash of salt, pepper and crushed red pepper and whisk to emulsify. I tossed the dressing with the zucchini/almond/cheese mixture, took my bowl out on the deck and enjoyed a no-cook meal al fresco.