Sunshine and Shaved Vegetables

The evening sun was pouring through my kitchen window in the most dramatic way this past Saturday as I stood peeling zucchini and asparagus into paper-thin slices for salad and waiting for my friends to arrive with meat to throw on the grill. It was perfect weather that evening, the kind of weather that makes me want to stay up all night long.

My friends arrived bearing meat, wine, and fresh berries, and we sat around the table in my little courtyard sipping the sparkling gin drink I had concocted involving my rosemary flavored simple syrup, thinly sliced cucumbers, sliced lemons, lemon juice, seltzer, and, of course, gin.

Someday I will learn how to light my dinky old charcoal grill on my own, but as long as there continue to be male friends around to do it for me, that’s a task I will continue to put off. Patrick, being the only boy around on Saturday, happily took responsibility of the grill, though we had to keep adding more coal to keep it hot, which Julia gracefully handled.

This salad was inspired by one I’d been fed by the SAVEUR test kitchen recently. It was a bit of a time-consuming project to get the asparagus spears and the zucchini into those lovely thin slices, but it’s totally worth it. With baby spinach, some shaved parmesan cheese, and a lemony vinaigrette, this salad was wonderfully green and cleansing tasting, and fit well beside our grilled Italian sausages and chicken breasts.

Raw Asparagus, Zucchini, and Spinach Salad
serves 5 or 6

1 box baby spinach
1 bundle asparagus, washed with tough ends snapped off
2 medium sized zucchini, washed
Parmesan cheese
1 lemon
olive oil
white wine vinegar
agave (or brown sugar)
salt and pepper

If you have a mandolin, now would be the time to use it, but if, like me, you do not, this is what to do: To slice the asparagus: lay one spear flat on your work surface and using a vegetable peeler and starting at the base of the spear, shave of one long thin piece. You may need to use one hand to grip the base of the spear while shaving with the other hand so it doesn’t wiggle all over the place. Repeat until all the asparagus is done. To slice the zucchini: First, cut off the top and bottom, then slice in half. Cut out the seeds, so that you have a nice “U” shape. Starting at one side of the “U” shave off thin slivers from top to bottom until it’s all done.
Mix the shaved asparagus and zucchini in a large bowl with the spinach, then using the same vegetable peeler, shave a bunch of Parmesan in as well.
In a small jar, mix the juice of one lemon, olive oil, white wine vinegar, a tiny bit of agave or sugar, a bit of mustard, and salt and pepper, adjusting amounts to taste.
Just before serving, toss the salad with the vinaigrette.