Super Sneaky Salads: My refreshing zucchini-peppers ribbon-salad.
When life get’s busy you have to go with what you’ve got. In my case that’s this recipe and the pictures that go with it. Now, it’s true that these are more than a year old. But maybe that is what makes this little salad so special to me. It is not super fancy, quite far from it. But it is one of the first things I had, when I started to get settled here in my flat, here in this town. Food brings about memories, at least to me. Some of them are light and zappy, just like a lemon-sorbet and some of them are warm and heavy much like a winter-stew. However different, food never brings about bad memories for me. I tend to remember only the good things, because good and memorable food usually is eaten at times of happiness. And it is nice to be able to put a forkful of food into your mouth, just to bring back all that’s good in life every now and then. And while I am not willing to literally share my memories (because those are mine), I am willing to share this amazingly fresh salad so that you can make your own.
When I moved to Groningen, I was all but content. The first room I lived in was as big as another man’s tiny kitchen. Only that the room I placed my expandable couch in actually used to be one – stove, fridge, sink and all. I had moved out from home before, but this time was different. This time it wasn’t an interesting adventure with a set expiry date – this time it was my life and it was a tad bit overwhelming. I was slightly frustrated and couldn’t quite manage to settle. Looking back at things it was probably my own attitude that made me have quite a hard time finding happiness in my own walls – though, arguably, the stench didn’t help. But at one point I finally decided to move out, to find a new place without the neighbours fat cat constantly trying to sneak into my roomkitchen, a place where I could walk to the bathroom just barefoot and where I could wash my hands after using the loo (Which is something fairly rare in Dutch toilets). When I finally did move, things started to change for the better and I am deeply grateful for that.
It is this time of first getting settled, that this dish is reminding me of and it might just be what you need after a time of chocolate and turkey. However, a salad using this little ingredients requires you to pick the best you can find. Ideally, you should try to get some smaller and very tight zucchini, so that the ribbons will have a little snap to them. To add the final crunch, you can give them a 10 minute bath in ice-cold water, to tighten up the whole thing a bit further. The peppers should be ripe and sweet, go for a deep red, not a light red or orange-tone.
Zucchini-Peppers Ribbon Salad
Zucchini Peppers Lemon Garlic Salt Pepper Olive Oil Ricotta
Roasting a pepper
Roasting peppers is as easy as it can get in the kitchen: You just have to let it burn. If you belong to the blessed (such as myself) you have access to a gas-stove, which will make things a bit – but not much- easier. The idea is to give the skin of the pepper a nice burn without actually drying out the bell or cone itself. For this I prefer pointed peppers, but each to their own. Just light your stove and put your pepper on the fire, literally. Make sure to give it a nice burn all over. The darker the skin, the more intense the flavour.
If you should not cook with gas, just but your peppers under a very hot grill or in a very hot oven and wait for them to burn nice and black. I like to put the hot and blackened peppers in a freezing-bag (make sure that it will not melt, because the peppers might be that hot) which I seal and let the peppers cool down, so that I can handle them better. Letting the peppers rest like this will catch any juices. Take out the peppers and use a spoon to scrape of the skin, be gentle but thorough and try to collect any juices – this is where the flavour is at.
Cut the roasted peppers into stripes and put both the juices and the peppers into a bowl and add a pinch or two of sugar and salt. Drizzle over a hint of olive oil and lemon juice and add the tiniest bit of grated garlic. If you can, let the bowl sit in a warm oven so that the peppers don’t cool down too much and the flavours can spread further.
Making the salad
- Take your zucchini and a potato (or any veggie, really) peeler and cut the zucchini into ribbons.
- Drizzle over some olive oil, lemon juice, a hint of sugar and garlic, some salt and pepper and mix carefully as not to break the ribbons
- Scatter the pepper-stripes on top and add tablespoons of the ricotta, hiding some in the ribbons. (If you don’t like ricotta or don’t have it near you, or just don’t want to spent the extra-bug, you can easily substitute it with some cream cheese or crème frâiche)
- Have with a nice piece of crunchy bread.
For the extra bit of decadency
Sometimes, when I feel extra-fancy I have this salad – without the salad. Just a nice piece of crunchy ciabatta spread with a rather thick layer of ricotta and extra-large heap of the roasted marinated peppers. Maybe a hint of extra-garlic and basil and I am in food-heaven.