I didn’t want what is left of summer to slip away without sneaking in this no-recipe recipe for zucchini carpaccio.
The poor old zucchini – we call them courgettes in the UK – doesn’t get a lot of love. They are the also-rans compared to summer’s brightest stars – saline-sweet tomatoes, glossy eggplants, sky-climbing beans, etc. Nearly every summer vegetable would win a favourites contest compared to zucchini.
But where some disparage zucchini’s hardly-there taste and so-so nutrient levels (it really isn’t much to write home about now, is it?), I have grown to love this easy-to-grow vegetable.
Which is technically a fruit, but we won’t go there.
In common with the prettier, yellow summer (crookneck) squash, green zucchini should either be eaten well-cooked and swathed in plenty of fat (cream, butter, olive oil, cheese, whatever..), or eaten raw. Seared in a wok is fine too. In-between cooking – light steaming or minimal boiling – doesn’t do it any favours. In my opinion. I even think they can sometimes taste bitter if only lightly cooked; which is quite a feat for such a mild plant. No, I feel it’s far better to go over the top with zucchini, or go raw.
If you want a gorgeous zucchini soup recipe, please go read my “Creamy” Zucchini, Walnut and Thyme Soup. It’s one of my post pinned recipes and I really need to revisit it with new images! It’s naturally vegan but if you have some homemade chicken stock I daresay it would really be at home in this recipe. I also have it nestled in with other veg in a few other recipes – my Baked Ratatouille Tian springs to mind.
But today I’ve gone raw. You won’t want to do this with behemoth zucchini, the ones that weigh as much as a newborn. Keep those for soup or gratins. Stick with the medium to small ones for their tender skins and sweeter flesh. You will want to keep the skin on too as that is where most of the antioxidants reside.
This is more a template than a recipe so just use it as a jumping off point.
How to customise your courgette carpaccio
I’ve kept it fairly simple but I can see this going in many directions.
For those that eat meat or fish, add a little bit of pan-crisped pancetta or best smoked salmon
Change out the pine nuts (they are pricey, and I do recommend organic) in favour of pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkins seeds or walnuts. All to be lightly toasted, of course.
Sneak in a friend: thinly sliced tomato, fennel, or beetroot
Be crumby: fry up some coarse breadcrumbs from a past-its-best loaf in olive oil and sprinkle over
Add little nuggets of goat’s cheese (shown above), feta cheese, or even some well-aged Cheddar.
Swap the dill or fennel for fresh oregano, chervil, lemon verbena or anything not too bold and assertive
Change the honey to agave if you are vegan. I’m not normally a fan of agave but a little is of course fine. Maple or anything strongly flavoured wouldn’t do here. You could just keep the honey out but I really, really urge you to drizzle on the merest hint as it really enhances the overall taste. It’s only a little bit but it does make a difference.
Why do thinly sliced foods taste better?
Of course, that’s subjective, but people do report that certain foods do taste better thinly sliced. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that the more surface area that is exposed the more we can taste it, and in some case smell it. The latter not always for the better: Do you think that thinly sliced broccoli is whiffier than hulking florets?
Thin slicing also changes the texture and shape, and with it our perception of its taste. Chunky foods = rustic; thinly sliced = more sophisticated. To some degree it depends what mood you’re in and what your expectations are before eating a dish.
With this recipe, thinly slicing the courgettes really does make them seem to taste sweeter than cutting fat coins of them. They will readily soak up the gorgeous flavours of the olive oil, honey and lemon. And leave you wondering why you haven’t been making this all summer long. 🙂
What are some of your favourite ways to eat zucchini? Do you say zucchini or courgette? Or do you call them something else??
Make this doddle of a salad recipe at least half an hour before you wish to eat it so that the flavours really blend and shine. See above the recipe for ideas of how to customise to your liking. xx
1 medium courgette or a mix of medium and small courgettes – I used half of a medium and three baby ones
1 tbsp very best extra virgin olive oil
1 & 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp light runny honey (I use acacia)
3 sprigs of dill or fennel fronds
2 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
Fennel pollen sprigs from late-season fennel plant, optional (you can buy Fennel Pollen online but please don’t get it just for this recipe!) – it’s a beautiful, addictive taste and nothing like fennel seeds (much subtler)
Optional extras: goat’s or feta cheese (pictured)
Use a sharp thin-bladed knife to finely slice – as fine as you can – the courgettes, until you have a pile. Start layering them onto a dinner plate or small serving plate so you know how many you need to slice.
Once the courgettes are laid out, it’s just a matter of drizzling over the oil, honey and lemon. Sprinkle over just a little salt then the pine nuts, dill or fennel, and the pollen, if using. Eat fresh as an appetizer/starter or side dish. This goes very well with white fish like sea bass.
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RIPE FOR PINNING!
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15 thoughts on “Courgette Carpaccio, Fennel Pollen and Pine Nuts”
I love a raw dish dressed like this, how appetising . Love the additions especially the fennel & pinenuts. Lovely styling and nice to spot Natalie Wood’s little pouring bowl. Love her work so much.
Great summer salad with beautiful clean flavours.
Beautiful! I made a zucchini-“carpaccio” a long time ago, and went to see if I included in the blog, but… no! Your version inspired me to re-visit it… I remember it was very refreshing and delicious
will try yours soon!
Looks lovely! I love cooking with zucchini, usually with lots of garlic, but am now inspired to slice it with my mandoline and leave it raw 😀
It would be nice if you credited Ottolenghi for this recipe since that is whom you got it from
Actually I haven’t seen his version at all, Annabel. This type of dish is common in Mediterranean countries. My version is based on what I had to hand and found went well together. I assure you that I am scrupulous about crediting those from whom I get direct inspiration.
So beautiful. And I have bucket loads of fennel in the vegie patch at the moment. Just need the weather to warm up a bit here. Winter time here is Australia and not really carpaccio weather. Thanks for sharing such a gorgeous recipe and photo. margaret
Thanks so much. How about griddle or lightly saute the zucchini and proceed with the rest? I bet that would taste good too. 😊😊
Good plan! I’ll give that a try. m
This is such a beautiful dish! I love all of the tender fresh zucchini that’s available at this time of year, and I’m always looking for fun new ways to use it up. This is definitely going on the menu soon!
Sorry for the late reply but I hope you got a chance to give this a try during the summer. I can’t believe I have layers on already! Warm and cosy food coming soon 🙂
I’m so excited to see these wonderfully fresh and nutritious recipes. Zucchini abounds in my summer garden, and I’ve begun to grow weary. I feel newly inspired. Thank you!
Sorry for the late reply. I hope you got a chance to try a version of this before the last courgette was picked. All the slugs and beasties have eaten most of my edibles :/
Mossy definitely call them courgettes! I have so much overgrown fennel. It all went to seed while we were on holiday. I think the fronds would be lovely on this.
Save those seeds, Urvashi! So much tastier than bought fennel seeds 😊😊