I like to consider myself a die-hard carnivore, the kind of person who enjoys her steaks bloody, or “barely dead” as my mom would say. I commend restaurants like Mado because they don’t waste; they use as much of the animal as possible, and they even teach courses on swine butchering and tweet about beef tongue. Plus, it’s not every day I get to try tripe and beef heart and Mado gives me that opportunity; the closest thing to offal I had growing up was fried chicken gizzards, and man, I loved them so.
So yeah, vegetarian I am not, nor could I ever be.
But for this month, I’m going to try. As Hubs will quickly interject, it doesn’t make a lick of sense. Why volunteer to take away part of my life that I cherish? I openly laugh at people participating in Lent (if you are one of them, I’m sorry, but I will still laugh at you), giving up their favorite food and torturing themselves for 40 days. Nonetheless, here I am. Attempting to eat a vegetarian pescaterian diet for an entire month is a sure-fire way to send me, and the Hubs, straight to the crazy house. But keep the straightjackets and padded rooms away for now, please.
Let’s set the record straight, so that no one is confused here: this is not permanent, people. Hell, no! Are you out of your mind? A life without rack of lamb and bacon is a life I do not care to be a part of, please and thank you. I’m only testing myself, and I do have two reasons. For one, we joined a meat and produce CSA this year, and come June we’ll be up to our eyelids in more meat than we can shake a stick at. I figure I’ll appreciate it a lot more after a month of going without.
Okay, that’s a sorta stupid reason, I know. But my second one is more plausible: I want to branch out and become more versatile in my eating and cooking. I love so many vegetarian dishes, yet so rarely do I eat a purely vegetarian meal and this is a way for me to force myself to do so. Plus, it’s Spring and there are so many good veggies on the brink of seasonality that if I can do it for one month, May has to be the easiest because I’m not missing any hearty winter stews and chilis, and it’s not quite burger season – yet.
So with that, lets discuss zucchini – one of those lil’ veggies that’s rip roarin’ and ready to go, right about now. I’ve come to appreciate zucchini, and what better way to serve it than thinly sliced and raw so that it’s freshness is appreciated, celebrated, and not stewed and melded ratatouille-style. Thin-sliced meat (which I’m now missing as I type this…damnit) is often called “carpaccio”, and if you’ve never tried it you are certainly missing out.
While this is assuredly meat-free, serving zucchini in this way lets the true taste and brightness of this “summer squash” stand on its own, with light, delicate flavors of lemon and basil to accent and mounds of fluffy, creamy ricotta cheese to add textural contrast.
My favorite carpaccio ever? Well, no. But for May, or as a side dish any day, it’ll work!
Adapted from Bon Appetit, March 2010; 4 side servings
this recipe works best if you have a mandoline slicer, but if you don’t you’ll just have to take your time and slice slowly with a regular ol’ knife. I used a mandoline, but realized too late that it was on the wrong setting, and as a result have 1/4″ slices where they should be almost paper thin. no matter how thick or thin the slices are, you’ll still love this as a refreshing side with almost anything.
2 medium regular or 4 baby zucchini, trimmed
Coarse kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 green onion, thinly sliced
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T good evoo
4 oz good ricotta cheese, more or less to your liking
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped into thin strips
Using knife or mandoline, cut zucchini into paper-thin rounds. Arrange rounds, slightly overlapping, on large platter. Sprinkle lightly with coarse salt and pepper, then green onions. Whisk lemon juice and oil in small bowl. Drizzle dressing evenly over zucchini. Drop small spoonfuls of cheese all over zucchini. Sprinkle with basil and serve.