The Recipe: An oh-so-easy but seductive zucchini salad, made 'sexy' with spiral zucchini noodles which are taking the world by storm as a low-carb, whole-food pasta-like but grain-free noodle. Low carb, just 1 Weight Watchers point, gluten-free, paleo. Not just vegan, Vegan Done Real. Did I mention irresistible?
The Conversation: My discovery of new-style Finnish food, thanks to Finnish food blogger and cookbook author Mari Moilanen.
Trends pass, sensibilities change, styles go out of date. Cuisines too are less than timeless, constantly evolving, melding, shape-shifting.
Take my experience with Finnish food. Sure, I lived in Finland and I l-o-v-e-d the food, especially the fish, the cheese and yogurt, the pastries. But that was way back in the 1970s (yikes!) and while that year as an exchange student may still feel almost-like-yesterday and while I've been back several times, I always looked to revisit almost forty-year old experiences.
Call it a culinary revelation, then, to spend a week in Helsinki just before Midsummer. What a contemporary 2014-style Finnish food experience! It started with the oh-so-beautiful food prepared by Mari Moilanen for the weekend Photography-Styling Workshop I attended.
Mari has an easy-breezy style that I really love: fresh and seasonal, simple but surprising. Mari blogs in Finnish at Jotain Maukasta [translation: Something Tasty] and in English at, you guessed it, right? Something Tasty. Mari also has a cookbook coming out this fall: it won't be in English so aiii, if only my Finnish were still good enough to read even a cookbook without constant references to a long-tattered Finnish-English dictionary!
But let's start with Mari's zucchini salad, one she tossed together for an outdoor picnic. Is it typically Finnish? Maybe not, not old-style Finnish anyway. But certainly it fits a global, new-style Finnish food.
Besides #1: It was the very first thing I made when we first got home from Finland!
Besides #2: It got me to finally unbox the spiralizer purchased two years ago but never once yet used. Trust me, it's gotten some exercise ever since, I keep making this salad – and other zucchini noodle dishes – again and again!
ZUCCHINI SPIRAL "NOODLE" SALAD
Time to table: 50 minutes
- 1 medium-size or 2 small-ish zucchini, about 14 ounces/400g
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, about 5 ounces/140g, quartered
- Fresh mint leaves, snipped small with scissors
- Zest & juice (about 1 tablespoon) of a lime
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey or agave
- 1 tablespoon good olive oil
- Lots of freshly ground pepper
ZUCCHINI NOODLES Trim off the stem and blossom ends on the zucchini. For short noodles, with a small knife, cut into the zucchini lengthwise to the center, this makes for "short" and more easily eaten. (For long noodles, skip this step. Kids love long noodles!) Use a spiralizer to cut the zucchini into noodles. Collect in a bowl with tomatoes and fresh mint.
LIME VINAIGRETTE Mix all ingredients.
COMBINE About 30 minutes before serving, stir together Zucchini Noodles and Lime Vinaigrette. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to let flavors meld and noodles soak up some vinaigrette.
MAKE-AHEAD TIPS Cut the Zucchini Noodles up to a few hours before serving, just collect them with the tomatoes in a serving bowl and refrigerate. Make the Lime Vinaigrette ahead of time too. About 30 minutes before serving, toss the Zucchini Noodles, Lime Vinaigrette and fresh mint.
Spiralizers: Sexy-Sexy Zucchini "Noodles"
SIZE The spiralizer is about a foot wide, a foot tall, something less than a foot deep. Yes: BIG for a small kitchen. It doesn't pack easily, I'm glad I kept its box. It's quite light and sits easily on the counter.
HOW IT WORKS (left photo) Just attach the zucchini and wind the handle while gently pressing the zucchini toward the pile of noodles collecting at the far end.
WASTE (upper right photo) You'll end up with a strange-looking core. It's not really waste -- just eat it! Cook's treat!
ONE LOOOOONG NOODLE (lower right photo) The spiralizer makes one loooong noodle, really fun but hard to eat! You can fix this two ways. First, just run a knife through the noodles after they're in the bowl, lickety split. Second, before using the spiralizer, run a knife lengthwise along the zucchini, cutting to the center but no more, this technique yields nice, neat noodles of the same size, not quite so fun so still, kinda cool!
BLADES The Paderno model I use has three blades but so far I've only used the "small" noodle. The blades are very-very-VERY sharp, I've had a couple of bad cuts while cleaning the blades. Really, do take care.
CLEANING It does wash quite easily, just a rinse under running water but some zucchini does get stuck in the blade, it takes a little work (not hard or time-consuming) to get it out.
More of Mari Moilanen's New-Style Finnish Cuisine
"HelsinkiFoto 2014" was a two-day photography workshop in Finland's capital city of Helsinki taught by Dutch professional photographer Simone Van den Berg (front left) who also blogs at Simone's Kitchen and the talented, effervescent Meeta Wolff (front center) of What's for Lunch, Honey. On a personal note, it was a total thrill and a very emotional first-hello to meet Meeta in person! We've been "friends" since the very early days of food blogging. She says that I left the very first comment on her blog!
Finnish food blogger and cookbook author Mari Moilanen (front right) of Jotain Maukasta and Something Tasty made the local arrangements and, lucky for the participants, prepared the food for our cameras and our healthy appetites! On the second day, she laid out an outdoor picnic to practice our new-found photography inspiration. There was a lovely, lovely lemon cake too, it was blogged by a fellow Finn who lives in Dubai, the irrespressible Minna Herranen who blogs at NakedPlate, gorgeous! I have my eye on this cake!
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