Zucchini salad

Zucchini Noodle Salad

Submitted photo

This zucchini noodle salad is classic Italian: pretty, simple and chic. Not the words you usually associate with zucchini. The recipe was inspired by a version from a restaurant in Parma where the dish gets its flavor from farmstead organic Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Freshness is critical to the taste of zucchini. Zucchini should be stored no longer than three days. They are prone to chilling damage, which shows up as sunken pits on the surface when the zucchini is brought to room temperature after being refrigerated. Now for a bit of trivia: Did you know that each zucchini is the swollen ovary of the female flower?

For this dish, you need top-quality ingredients: fresh zucchini from the farmers market, Parmigiano-Reggiano, extra-virgin olive oil and fresh mint. The best part is there’s no cooking so no pots and pans to clean. However, you will need a julienne peeler, vegetable peeler or mandolin.

Raw zucchini has a delicate crunch. The refreshing mint leaves in this salad make the dish a hit with my students, especially on a hot summer day. The Parmigiano adds salty richness and the pine nuts add more crunch. This vibrant and colorful first course should be your “little black dress” for a summer starter.

Chef Demo at the Market: Join chef Alex Espinoza of Peju Province Winery for a free cooking demonstration at the Napa Farmers Market on Saturday, June 25, at 11 a.m. Samples provided.

Zucchini Noodles with Mint and Parmigiano

I like to use a julienne peeler to make zucchini “linguine.” If you don’t have a julienne peeler, use a vegetable peeler, which makes wider “papparadelle.”

Serves 4

4 small green and/or yellow zucchini, about 1 pound

1/3 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1/4 tsp. fine sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

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1/4 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds, toasted

1 chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, about 3 ounces

Edible flowers for garnish, such as scarlet runner bean flowers, chive blossoms and bachelor buttons

Using a julienne peeler, peel the zucchini until you reach the center with the seeds. Then turn and peel another side until you reach the seeds. Continue until you have only the seedy center left. Discard the center. Place the zucchini “noodles” in a bowl.

Set aside a few of the smallest mint leaves for garnish. Make a chiffonade of the remaining mint by stacking the leaves and cutting them crosswise into very thin slivers. Reserve under a wet paper towel.

Just before serving, whisk together the olive oil and lemon juice. Drizzle about half of the dressing over the zucchini. Add the mint chiffonade and toss. Season with the sea salt and with pepper to taste; toss again. Add more dressing if you like.

With tongs, divide the zucchini “noodles” among four salad plates. With a vegetable peeler, shave some Parmigiano-Reggiano over the zucchini and sprinkle with the pine nuts, reserved mint and edible flowers. Serve immediately.

The Napa Farmers Market takes place on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., May through October, in the parking lot of the South Napa Century Center, 195 Gasser Drive, Napa. The third Tuesday of every month is Seniors’ Day at the market, with some vendors offering discounts to shoppers 65 and older. Ask about participating vendors at the information booth. For more market information and a schedule of upcoming events, visit NapaFarmersMarket.org or visit the market on Facebook.

Julie Logue-Riordan teaches cooking classes in Napa and leads culinary tours to Parma and Tuscany in the fall. She is on the board of the Napa Farmers Market.