Saturday, January 7, 2012

Zucchini and Hazelnut Salad

Guess who had some hazelnuts left over from the last recipe? I thought I was going to be stuck forever with about 1/3 cup hazelnuts, destined to sit in my pantry for all time. And, all of a sudden, inspiration! In the most unlikely of places- the bags and bags of half-used nuts I had bought over the last few months and had never used all of. Why didn't I think of adding hazelnuts to salads before? So easy! So delicious! Such a great way to use up a pointlessly small amount of hazelnuts!!

And it was delicious. I rarely serve zucchini in a salad-type setting, but I'm going to have to do it more. And the recipe also gave me a chance to use my oft-neglected griddle pan, allowing me to make those lovely little charred marks on each zucchini slice. Adding a touch of class to the whole dish.

Serves 4

1/3 cup toasted hazelnuts
7 small zucchini (1 3/4 lbs in total)
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and black pepper
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/4 cups greens (e.g. lettuce, spinach, etc.)
small handful of basil leaves, torn
3 oz Parmesan, broken up or thinly sliced
Optional: 2 tsp hazelnut oil (if you happen to be one of the 5 people in the world who have this on hand)

For toasting the hazelnuts: Preheat the oven to 300 F. Scatter the hazelnuts over a baking sheet and roast for 12-15 minutes, or until nicely browned. Let them cool down before chopping roughly or just crushing lightly with a large knife.

For the salad: Place a ridged griddle pan on a high heat and leave it there until it's almost red-hot, at least 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, trim the ends of the zucchini and cut them on an angle into 1/4 inch slices. Place them in a bowl and toss with half the olive oil and some salt and pepper. Place the slices in the hot grill pan and char-grill for about 2 minutes each side; turn them over using tongs. You want to get distinct char marks without cooking the zucchini through. Transfer to a mixing bowl, pour over the balsamic vinegar, toss together, and set aside.

Once the zucchini have cooled down, add the remaining olive oil, the basil, greens, and hazelnuts. Mix lightly, then taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Transfer the salad to a flat place, incorporating the Parmesan, and (if you're using it), drizzle over the hazelnut oil.

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