Cristina Ferrare's zucchini and cucumber carpaccio
The end of summer brings with it delicious zucchini and cucumbers. Whether fresh from the garden or the market, Cristina Ferrare offers up some fresh ideas for bringing them to the table beautifully. 
I am enjoying all the wonderful fruits, and vegetables that are available this summer season, and I can’t seem to get enough. I just picked up the most wonderful cucumbers and zucchinis from the market. The zucchinis are big, bold and beautiful, and I love the fact that you can also get zucchini flowers. They’re great for stuffing and make a great appetizer! 

I remember cutting off the zucchini flowers from the beds in the garden as a kid and bringing them to my grandmother. I did this for two reasons.

One, I loved the way she would stuff them with ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, fresh basil, salt and pepper, dip them in an egg wash, fry them in extra-virgin olive oil and serve them with a juicy lemon wedge! Sometimes she would stuff a piece of cooked Italian sausage in there too, and it sent me over the edge! She then covered it with a dollop of fresh tomato sauce made from the sweet ripened tomatoes from the garden! So good!

Two, the zucchinis would eventually take over the whole garden, so I would pick the budding flowers off so I wouldn’t have too many of them going rogue. I would leave my garden with the zucchinis growing happily and literally overnight at least one would grow to proportions that were not real! I use to call those “the zucchinis that ate Cleveland” because they were the size of a log! It wasn’t there the day before! What’s up with that? 

What to do with those fresh summer cucumbers
Those giant ones would keep us in zucchini bread and soup all winter! Today I grill almost all my vegetables, and zucchinis are one of my favorites.

Slice a zucchini 1/4-inch thick on a diagonal, brush with olive oil and a pinch of granulated garlic on both sides and grill them on a really hot indoor or outdoor grill pan. It usually takes two to three minutes to form grill marks on each side. Lay them evenly on a platter, and sprinkle some fresh thyme, oregano, kosher salt, cracked pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice! You can crumble some Greek feta cheese on top! 

Cut them lengthwise (top to bottom), 1/4-inch thick, grill them the same way using same ingredients, cool on a platter then and add a teaspoon of fresh ricotta or goat cheese on the end with a fresh basil leaf, roll them up into a tiny cylinder and place a toothpick through to hold it together. Great appetizer!

Cucumbers in the summer are peak in flavor and texture. There is nothing like a crunchy salad of sliced cucumbers with fresh chopped basil, mint, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice and kosher salt. I loved the extra crunch of the salt as the freshness of the cool cucumbers comes through with the tang of the lemon and the fruitiness of the olive oil. The fresh herbs are an added flavor that enhances this simple-but-delicious taste sensation!

I came up with a recipe for Zucchini and Cucumber Carpaccio while being served an appetizer in one of my favorite Italian restaurants here in Los Angeles, E Baldi. I ordered an appetizer of sashimi consisting of paper-thin slices of tuna, yellowtail and salmon topped with micro greens. The presentation looked so beautiful. When I was trying to find yet another way to serve my veggies, I thought if they can do that with fish, why not veggies? I used my handheld slicer that slices vegetables paper thin. You can purchase a ceramic vegetable slicer at Williams-Sonoma. It looks like a cheese grater with a ceramic blade. I slice cucumbers and zucchinis, arranged them on a round serving plate and lay them alternately until the entire platter is covered. It turns out to be beautiful and impressive.

You can make individual servings as well—everyone will ooh and ahh!

It’s different, it looks beautiful and everyone will love how delicious and light is it!

Sending "a big bowl of love" from the garden!


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