Courgette carpaccio with gilded cheese and pinenuts and an emerald green dressing

It’s the basil which makes this raw courgette salad so special – and it’s the quantity that’s important. I only discovered this thanks to the Chief Taster’s passionate dislike of waste.

I’m lucky enough to have a flamboyantly fulsome basil plant. I picked a fairly burstingly full stem to use in this recipe, and a couple of others to make some basil oil.

But the CT got hungry while I was in the shower (“When IS lunch going to be?”) and decide to finish the salad off and whisk it onto the table in an effort to speed up proceedings. He spotted the remaining two stems of basil, thought it a shame to waste them, and tore them in too. Result: if you can’t get to the Med, then this is the best way to bring it to you.

Use the bitterest honey you can lay your hands on for this. I use Sardinian honey from bees buzzing around the Strawberry tree (Miele di Corbezzolo) which has a very burnt taste and allows me to add an extra tablespoon. Chestnut honey is the next best thing, and it’s readily available.

You can use all kinds of melting cheese for this – a goats cheese log is particularly good; or alternatively you can use marinated feta, in which case you don’t need to grill at all.

 

Recipe for courgette carpaccio with gilded cheese and pine nuts and an emerald green dressing

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 50g/2 oz lump of frozen spinach (buy a bag of these, endlessly useful)
  • 1 large courgette (weighing approximately 250-300g/10oz
  • 3 generously laden stems of basil
  • a few sprigs of thyme
  • juice and zest of half a lemon
  • 2 tbsps olive oil plus more for drizzling over the cheese
  • 200g/7 oz melting cheese – feta, a log of goats cheese, tomini marinated in chilli oil, or manchego (or British equivalents Corra Lynn or Lord of the Hundreds)
  • 3 tbsp honey – ideally chestnut
  • 30g/¼ cup pine nuts
  • smoked salt
  • pinch or two of Urfa pepper flakes (or lots of freshly ground black pepper)
  • crusty white bread

Method

  1. Slice the courgette into thin ribbons. When you are left with an unribbonable stub, chop this into small matchsticks. Put the ribbons onto a largish serving platter. Keep the matchsticks to one side.
  2. Preheat the grill (unless you are using marinated feta).
  3. Zest the lemon, and keep the zest apart.
  4. Juice the lemon into a small, microwavable (not metal) bowl. Add the olive oil, some salt, a pinch of Urfa pepper flakes, and a tablespoon of honey. Add the spinach. Microwave briefly. Tear in the leaves from two of the stems of basil. Mix this dressing.
  5. Dry fry the pine nuts.
  6. Add the dressing to the courgette, mix well. Don’t wash up the bowl.
  7. Lay out the cheese (cut into four pieces) on an oiled, foiled surface on a roasting tray, add some thyme leaves and olive oil, and grill for a minute or two until just beginning to turn golden. Watch it like a hawk!
  8. Put the remaining courgette matches in the centre of the salad. Sprinkle over the lemon zest, the pine nuts and another pinch of Urfa pepper flakes. Top with the melting cheese. Tear over the remaining basil and any thyme leaves which remain.
  9. Use the dressing bowl to melt the remaining honey in the microwave (just a few seconds) if it is not runny. Drizzle over the cheese.
  10. Serve with warm, crusty bread.

 

courgette carpaccio
Flamboyantly fulsome basil….at a distance
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