Monday, July 15, 2013

crostini with zucchini pesto.

I gravitate towards zucchini at the market because they tend to get overlooked when presented next to gorgeous heirloom tomatoes and shinny eggplants (I always have strong feelings of affection towards the underdog).  But then I bring them home and I stare at them in frustration since I don’t know what to do with them.  So I revert to my default - roasted in the oven until they get a little charred and caramelized,  I serve it drizzled with good olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, crumbled goat cheese, and a sprinkle of shredded basil and flaky sea salt.  It’s a perfectly delicious preparation but a completely unappealing option during a heat wave.  Who wants to roast something when you yourself are already roasting and dripping with sweat in the sweltering hot box you like to call your apartment?  So this week I am breaking up with my oven and eating ice cream for dinner (just kidding Mom!)

I spent a great deal of time finally going through the back log of recipes I save in e-mail folders, bookmark online, and tear out of magazines (can you tell I hoard much?) to find things that don’t involve much actual cooking (i.e. the dreaded oven).  During that search I stumbled upon this zucchini pesto which is a real gem of a recipe.  It involves summer produce! It doesn't involve cooking! I can eat it atop toasted bread! (Because everyone knows everything tastes better on  well toasted bread) It doesn't involve cooking!! (Just wanted to drive that point home in case you missed my level of enthusiasm the first time.)   After making this I came to the conclusion that raw zucchini is a completely under-appreciated thing.  It’s crunchy and sweet and when paired with toasted almonds, salty cheese, and fresh basil, it makes for an unusual and deeply satisfying pesto. 

Follow you crostini dinner with a big bowl of ice cream for dessert.  Heat wave be dammed. 

Crostini with Zucchini Pesto
Recipe adapted from Tasting Table

This pesto is addicting and makes for an incredible dinner on weeks where it is beyond hot out.  No oven involved! If you really wanted to avoid the stove you could not toast the bread, but the toasted bread provides an extra little crunch that is really lovely so I suggest it.  This pesto would be equally lovely a top grilled chicken breasts or salmon filets, or even pasta but I find the toast to be simply wonderful. 

Yields 6 appetizer servings  - about 12 – 18 crostini depending on the size of the bread

3 medium zucchini (about 1 pound) can use yellow or green
2 teaspoons salt plus more to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup shredded basil
½ cup marcona or regular almonds, toasted and finely chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
½ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf ciabatta or sourdough baguette cut into ¼ inch slices 

Using a box grater, coarsely grate the zucchini.  Place the shredded zucchini in the middle of a clean kitchen towel or cheese cloth and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of salt.  Let sit for 5 minutes, then squeeze the towel to remove excess moisture.  Repeat until as much liquid as possible has been released, then transfer zucchini to bowl.  (Really squeeze!  You will be amazed at how much water comes out.)

Add the garlic, basil, almonds, red pepper flakes, cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons olive oil to the zucchini; toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and refrigerate for an hour. 

Just before serving, drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the bread and grill or broil the bread until toasted, then let cool. 

Top each slice of bread with 2 to 3 tablespoons of the zucchini pesto (depending on the size of your toasts) and serve immediately. 

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