Wednesday, September 3, 2008


It's been quite awhile since I've posted something--a reflection of the flightfulness of the summer months, and perhaps, my personality!

So, I offer this recipe as a last ode to these summer months, that have now, sadly passed. To celebrate the laborlessness of Labor Day, a couple of us dined at Morandi in the West Village and were quite impressed by the Keith McNally restaurant--reminiscent of an Italian cave, full of romantic light and varieties of brick, wood and stucco. The service was attentive and the food was perfect, there were no complaints, just 'ooos' and 'mmms'--aside from the strangely bitter espresso, but hey, nothing's perfect!

I was especially impressed by an "Insalate" I choose--described on the menu as Insalata de Zucchini e Menta (raw summer squash, green chiles & ricotta salata). It blew me away! Such fresh, complex ingredients, clevely presented in an unpretentious way. It seemed a contradiction--as if the chef, Jody Williams, had just tossed together this salad on a whim--but what experimentation and thought must have gone into creating this dish! The flavors bounced off one another with such determination and purpose. Every single bite was stupendous. I decided I had to try and create this myself! That I had to find a way to access these flavors in my every-day life, as my wallet wouldn't allow me the satisfaction of ordering Morandi's every time I had a craving for this!

So I went shopping and guessed at many of the ingredients (for instance--were those raisins or dried currants? happy to know I guess right--dried currants) and whipped up my own version that I believe is very, very similar! Enjoy.


= 1 dinner portion, 2 pre-dinner salad portions or 3 tapas portions

1 green zucchini (med to small size)
1 yellow summer squash(med to small size)
about 1/10 or 1/8 of a lb. of Ricotta Salata (crumbled, see below)
a little lemon juice
a little EVOO
a little salt
a palmful of Dried Currants (plumped, see below)
about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of PIne Nuts (toasted, see below)
about 5 leaves of Fresh Mint (chiffonade, see below)
about 10 very thin slices of raw serrano pepper OR a few pinches of ground Cayenne Pepper
3 to 5 oil-cured olives (they are black in color with pits)

  • this salad is all about prepping and just tossing! so just begin by preparing your ingredients
  • zucchini & squash: wash thoroughly. you want to cut the vegetables the same size. i imitated what Jody Williams did. cut off the end pieces of the squash. then cut each squash into 3 or 4 long pieces. at this point you basically want to cut out the inside of the squash--the watery flesh holding all the seeds. you just want to be left with long pieces of squash with the skin in-tact and no flesh with seeds. julienne all of the squash.
  • take a third of a lemon and sprinkle the juice over the julienned squash, that you have placed in a serving dish. also add just a little EVOO and a sprinkle of sea salt. toss with your hands.
  • take your 1/10 or 1/8 lb of ricotta salata. ricotta salata is simply an aged ricotta (aged by adding more salt to the mild cheese). it is actually fairly inexpensive--it was only $8.99 lb at an artisanal grocery store in Brooklyn, so a great alternative to goat cheese for other salads! the ricotta salata appears as other cheeses, formed into the circular wedge. but once you handle the cheese and apply force, it crumbles quite easily. so crumble your portion of cheese by hand, adding as little or as much as you'd like to the top of the dressed squash.
  • take your dried currants, about a palm-full. place them in a bowl and run hot tap water over them to soak. soak for 2 to 3 minutes as you're preparing the other ingredients. then drain, dry with paper towel, and sprinkle on the rest of the salad.
  • take your 1/4 to 1/3 cup of pine nuts. take a pan and heat it with med-high heat on the stove. add the pine nuts (this is a DRY process, no other ingredients are needed). frequently move the pine nuts as they are toasting. this takes only a couple of minutes. be CAREFUL! do not burn them! this is easy to do, so once they have changed color, just slightly, only leave them on for about 20 to 30 more seconds, then remove from heat and sprinkle over the salad.
  • take your leaves of mint. lay them on top of one another and roll them up. then take a sharp knife and gently cut the roll into very skinny pieces, and viola! you've got long, uniform, thin pieces of mint leaf. sprinkle over salad.
  • remove the pits from the oil-cured olives. then roughly chop them. sprinkle over salad.
  • oh the piece-de-resistance. the raw serrano pepper. procede with caution--and for god's sake, do not touch your eyes! you will only need a little bit of the pepper--and you want to cut it very, very thinly--you just want little punches in every-other bite when you eat the salad, so try a piece and use your own discretion. OR you can try sprinkling cayenne pepper over the salad--i tried raw jalapeno as well, but it gave me a stomach ache!
  • give it a final toss and enjoy!

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