Say you're in the mood for a beautiful salad. And say that a few weeks ago, you couldn't get grill marks on your polenta to save your life and you really wanted those grill marks. Well, then, this is the recipe for you. Say you also happen to know where to acquire fresh hazelnuts, well, then, this recipe was made for you. (Like, you owe it to this recipe to make it.) Alas, I didn't even know fresh hazelnuts were a thing and so, naturally, I used regular hazelnuts a.k.a. hazelnuts.
If I were going to do a stand-up comedy routine about this recipe, this is one of the jokes I might make:
[I pace around the stage. Leather jumpsuit. Microphone in hand.]
You guys know the cookbook, Plenty? [A few catcalls. Light applause.]
It's one of those perfectly titled books, you know. Because it sure has plenty of ingredients I ain't never heard of! [Wild laughter.]
Zucchini and Hazelnut Salad slightly adapted from Plentyserves 4
1/3 cup shelled hazelnuts
7 small zucchini (1 3/4 lbs in total)
4 tbsp olive oil plus 2 tsp to drizzle on at the end
salt and black pepper
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/4 cups green basil leaves
3 oz top-quality Parmesan, broken up or very thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 300F. Scatter the hazelnuts over a baking sheet and roast until nicely browned and it smells like toasted hazelnuts. [The recipe says 12-15 minutes, but that must be for fresh hazelnuts because after about 7 minutes, my regular hazelnuts were totally ready to go.] Let them cool down before chopping roughly or just crushing lightly with the side of a large knife.
Place a ridged griddle pan on a high heat and leave it there until it's almost red-hot--at least 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, trim the ends of the zucchini and cut them on an angle into 3/8-inch-thick slices. Place them in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and some salt and pepper. Place the slices in the hot grill pan and char-grill for about 2 minutes on each side [I had to do this in two batches because you really only want one single layer of slices at a time, otherwise you won't get the grill marks you desperately want/need.]; turn them over using tongs. You want to get distinct char marks without cooking the zucchini through. Transfer to a mixing bowl, pour over the balsamic vinegar, toss together and set aside.
Once the zucchini have cooled down, add the remaining olive oil, the basil and hazelnuts. Mix lightly, then taste and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Transfer the salad to a flat plate, incorporating the Parmesan, and drizzle over 2 more teaspoons of olive oil.