For the past four summers, I’ve been doing cooking demonstrations at a local farmers’ market. The conditions are lovely—extraordinarily good produce, cheese, meats, and cider sold by extraordinarily friendly farmers—if challenging. Even on the best of summer days, Brittany is breezy, which means anything you put on a table can blow away in a flash. And all I have is a table. No water, no electricity, no tent, no shelter…nothing. I do have a tablecloth which lets the under-the-table space double as a kind of cupboard.
This zucchini salad is my year-in, year-out market demo standby. It can be made in just about any adverse outdoor conditions—the ingredient order has been fine-tuned to resist blistering heat and blustery gusts. (I draw the line at driving rain. When that blows in, I pack up and go home.) It can be made with large or small zucchini, any type of onion, and any combination of herbs. (This is key when you’re depending on small organic producers for your ingredients.) It is ridiculously simple and never fails to impress, whether I’m handing it out as samples to peckish market-goers or swirling it onto antique plates (as shown) for a quick starter.
The only thing this salad can’t do is be made ahead. The zucchini gets limp and leaches lots of moisture after about a half an hour. It’s still pretty tasty, but it’s not all that appetizing. If you want to gild the lily and add more flavor, you can always sizzle the sunflower seeds in the oil, drain them on paper towels, then use the toasty-flavored oil in the dressing.
Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Sunflower Seeds and Fresh Herbs
½ cup fresh herbs—parsley, basil, mint, cilantro (I like parsley, basil, and mint), chopped
¼ cup chopped onion (red, white, or yellow) or shallot
6 Tbs. oil (I use half olive, half sunflower oil)
2 Tbs. vinegar (I prefer cider) or lemon juice
3 Tbs. to ¼ cup hulled sunflower seeds (toasted or raw)
2 medium zucchini
Whisk together the herbs, onion, oil, and vinegar in a large salad bowl. Stir in the sunflower seeds. Cut off the ends of the zucchini, then peel the zucchini lengthwise into ribbons directly into the bowl. Toss the zucchini with the dressing, season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.