Fig season has arrived in France! The daintier, sweeter variety indigenous to France are at their peak although the larger imports from Greece and Turkey are not a bad snack either. I’ve been waiting months to test out a recipe in Jamie Oliver’s Happy Days with the Naked Chef for months now. ‘Tis the season! It’s a sensually simple salad of figs, buffalo mozzarella, and prosciutto di parma. I slit an x on the top of the figs and gently squeezed them to reveal their velvety flesh. Arrange on a platter with sliced buffalo mozzarella. Next, a few ribbons of jambon du parma were weaved organically between the figs. A nice handful of basil thrown on top, a drizzle of best quality extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt and pepper. And there you have a sensationally seasonal first course.
I’m back in Paris! Much to my dismay, the city is a ghost town in August. I’m on a perpetual search for an open boulangerie!
Fortunately, C welcomed me with open arms and full refrigerator. I needed to crank out a light, simple dinner one evening. I found inspiration in two staples: zucchini and fresh mozzarella. I picked up a trick by using a vegetable peeler to slice the zucchini into transparent ribbons which develop charming cross-hatching when hit on a grill pan. Tossed with a healthy dose of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, salt & paper, and a chiffonade of fresh mint from the garden, the zucchini ribbons are sensuously silky while showcasing the nutty quality of zucchini I often forget. The ribbons are elegantly presented piled high topped with a crown of sliced fresh mozzarella.
The first time I made this dish, I was a little quick to over-season with too much lemon juice and the half-hearted addition of shaved cornichons. C, my taste tester, had no words for the dish; something was off. Surely he thought it was too acidic. I’m realizing I have a taste for strong flavors. However, at the same time, anything can taste like lemon juice! But when food is prepared well, it should taste like a celebration of whatever it is. I have challenged myself by living out this French food philosophy. Furthermore, with respect for good ingredients, even a meal inspired by the remnants of a fridge can be wildly satisfying. Now if only I could find that baguette…
JUST ZUCCHINI & MOZZARELLA for 2
2 medium zucchini, sliced thinly with a vegetable peeler
1 ball fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for grill pan
1 teaspoon fresh mint, sliced finely to a chiffonade (roll up leaves like a cigar and chop finely)
salt & pepper to taste
1.) Heat a grill pan over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and twirl pan until it is well-covered with oil. Add zucchini to the grill pan, being careful not to overlap the slices. Flip slices after 10-15 seconds when light grill marks appear. When both sides have nice hatching, place in a bowl. Proceed by grilling the rest of the slices, adding more oil to pan as needed.
2.) When all the slices have been grilled, toss with lemon juice, the tablespoon of olive oil, mint, salt, and pepper. Pile zucchini high onto serving plates and top with several slices of fresh mozzarella. Serve as a first course or with baguette for a light lunch.