Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Manchego + Marcona Almonds

Last week, I spent a glorious few days in Calgary, visiting my boyfriend who is there on a temporary assignment.  It proved a much-needed reprieve from the Houston heat (and floods) and we spent lots of time hiking, exploring, and eating (duh).

One of my favorite dishes was at a restaurant called Ox and Angela, which served (sort of) traditional Spanish tapas and reminded me of all of the tapas consumed when I studied in Cordoba, Spain during my junior year of college.  The dish was a simple salad of zucchini, studded with Marcona almonds and garnished with shaved Manchego cheese (two of my favorite things in the world that happen to also be very Spanish). We devoured it immediately and I vowed to recreate it the second I got home.

Zucchini makes a lovely grain-free substitute for pasta, but its texture can sometimes be a little bit off-putting when served completely raw.  By marinating the zucchini in lemon juice and olive oil, it softens and gains a more “cooked” texture that is much more appetizing.  You can use a mandoline slicer to cut your zucchini ribbons, or just use a vegetable peeler and run it down the length of the zucchini until you reach the core.  My favorite mandoline is this little cheapie from Sur la Table that I use far more often than the expensive one I have with a gazillion different blades that is most certain to slice off a finger one of these days.

Once you marinate the zucchini, this salad comes together very quickly and should be eaten day of or it will get too soggy.  I imagine this would go nicely with some torn prosciutto and basil if you wanted a more Italian take!

Makes 4 servings

2 medium zucchini

Juice of 1 lemon

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1/4 cup Marcona Almonds (in the cheese or specialty section at Whole Foods)

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

2 oz raw aged Manchego cheese, thinly sliced and crumbled

3-4 sprigs fresh mint, leaves removed

pinch sea salt

Using your mandoline or vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini into long ribbons, keeping them as uniform in size as possible.  Place the ribbons in a medium bowl and add the lemon juice and olive oil.  Toss to coat and let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour, until zucchini begins to soften.  Be careful not to leave marinating too long, as the zucchini will become mushy.  Add the almonds, tomatoes, cheese crumbles and fresh mint leaves.  Sprinkle with the sea salt and serve at once.