Keeping Up with the Joneses
We always want to party with the Joneses. He’s a jazz drummer, she’s from Denmark and a CEO, and they have a bunch of kids in a range of ages. They throw big bashes and everyone invites everyone drawing a rainbow of people together. There’s always a fabulous spread but people bring a plate to share anyway. And maybe an instrument to play. His drum kit waits next to the piano until the time feels right to get things going. The music heats up and friends fold in and out bringing new sparkle and sound. Anyone who wants to jumps in for the jam. The furniture gets pushed back and people get up and dance. Kids run around in packs. The young ones drip popsicles, the older ones hang out in the basement blasting a different kind of music. Everyone stays up way too late eating, laughing, commiserating – living.
This summer’s party was a little different. It’s the last one for a while because the Joneses have rented out their house and are moving to Denmark. They’ll come back – it’s only for a few years, but it’s hard to imagine the neighborhood without them. And we hate to say ‘goodbye’ even if it is just ‘see you later.’
So what to bring in the heat of summer to this joyful, soulful celebration of friendship? A beautiful seasonal salad. Tender zucchini sliced thin like ribbons with spicy mint from the garden, toasted almonds and dressed as simple as possible with lemon and olive oil. This dish always makes people happy even when there’s a little sadness in the air.
- 4 small to medium zucchini (about 6-8 ounces each), ends trimmed
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
- ⅓ cup sliced or slivered almonds
- ½ cup frozen peas, thawed
- 1 lemon, zest and juice (about 3 tablespoons juice)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup mint leaves, (about 12 leaves, 2 sprigs)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- With a mandoline, or a long chef's knife, carefully slice the zucchini into thin lengthwise ribbons, as thin as you can go while still getting a whole slice. If you don’t have either of these tools, you can use a peeler (see the Get Cheffy Tip below). Add the zucchini ribbons to a medium bowl one zucchini at a time and sprinkle ½ teaspoon of salt evenly over the top. Repeat with the remaining zucchini adding another zucchini’s worth of ribbons layered with more salt. Allow this to sit to release its juices and wilt a bit while you toast the nuts.
- In a small 8-inch sautee pan, add the almonds and set on the stove over medium high heat. Shake the pan after a few minutes to move the nuts around so they toast evenly. If you know how to toss ingredients in a pan without a spoon – show off your skillz here – and the nuts will toast evenly. If not, use a spatula and flip them carefully so that each side gets a turn against the hot pan. When fragrant and lightly toasted, about 3-4 minutes, remove from heat and turn out onto a cold plate or baking sheet.
- Drain the zucchini: using tongs or two spoons, gently transfer the wilted zucchini to a serving bowl or platter leaving the released liquid behind in the bowl. Add the thawed peas to the zucchini. Drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil squeeze over the lemon juice and gently toss. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
- To finish: arrange the zucchini on the platter, (they’re so crazy beautiful, really, it’s worth it to spend half a second twisting or twirling them with purpose so they look fab on the plate). Tear the mint leaves and arrange them casually over the zucchini. Top with toasted almonds and serve immediately. This dish will last a few days in the fridge, but it’s best if eaten shortly after being assembled.
If you don’t have a mandoline, make ribbons of zucchini using a vegetable peeler (the “Y” shaped version is easiest). You may need to trim the sides of the zucchini so that the width of the zucchini is slightly smaller than the widest part of the peeler blade. Lay the zucchini on a flat surface, position the peeler at a short end of the zucchini and pull back to make an even peel. You will probably have to press down pretty hard to make the cut. After the first peel, turn the squash over so the flat side lays against the cutting board. This will make them more stable while you continue slice. If they still slip around, place a paper towel underneath the zucchini and it will soak up the liquid.