My after-school students tend to be my guinea pigs. I see approximately 75 kids over the course of a week, kindergarten through middle school. Being kids, they’re pretty honest with their opinions. Being NYC kids, I like to think they’re the toughest food critics around. They are my taste testers.
My students blew my mind with their love of this dish — and the public classes continue to share the enthusiasm. I have to say I’m a little amazed. I thought to make it as the days started heating and broke 90. Who wants to turn an oven on with that heat?!
We got down to work: I explained what Carpaccio is, and that it normally consists of raw beef.
“Uggh, this is so gross!” A kindergartner interrupts.
But it’s not really raw, I continue, you can sort of “cook” food with an acid — like vinegar, or lemon.
Kindergartners are totally confused, first graders sort of understand and a second grader has an aha: “like ceviche?” We’re getting somewhere. In reality, carpaccio these days can really pass for any raw thinly sliced meat, fish or vegetable with a sauce over it. Hence, our Zucchini-Cucumber Carpaccio.
“Like gazpacho!” A fourth grader connects, “so in Italian does ‘ccio’ mean raw?”
I’m loving these questions, but unfortunately, it’s gazpacho, not, gazpaccio — though that would be more fun to say (I might start using that). And actually, ccio– or carpaccio, does not mean raw. That would be crudo. We’re not really sure where the dish carpaccio gets it’s name, but it’s possibly named after this guy.
We’re still having problems grasping this whole cooking with an acid thing and as we finish our dish, without fail in every class there is a question about how long it needs in the oven, whether I’m sure we won’t be cooking this (with heat), or how long it will take to be ready. I assure each class that they’re making this correct and that once they finish clean up and set their tables their dish will be ready. But we can still play hang man while we wait for it to cook, right? No.
One kindergartner noted her love of this dish because “it reminds me of lemonade.”
A second grader declared this was the “best thing we’ve made all year!” (Serious shocker response– better than whoopie pies and pizza rolls?!)
A fourth grader put it up to debate: “It’s very close that either this or the pizza rolls are the best thing we’ve made all year– can we make this again next week though?” These kids are killing me! Who are you all and what did you do to my highly critical students?!
At the close of the week I asked my middle schoolers if anyone would like the extra vegetables to take home so they can make the dish again. I had to take a step back with the show of hands. The student I gave it to declared that this dish was “the only thing I want to eat tonight… Totally making this for dinner.”
Please, never have me wake from this dream.
If you’re looking for something to serve with this, try it with Chef Molly’s Socca we made the other week.
Zucchini-Cucumber Ribbon Carpaccio
1 medium zucchini (or 1/2 yellow and 1/2 green squash)
1/2 avocado (optional), sliced
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (a loose 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint (or cilantro) leaves, chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Use a vegetable peeler* to shave the zucchini and cucumber lengthwise, forming thin ribbons. Discard the peel. Spread inner ribbon shavings on a serving plate. If using avocado, cut into bite-sized pieces and sprinkle over zucchini and cucumber. Shave Parmesan, sprinkle over dish. Chop (or tear) and measure the basil and mint, sprinkle evenly over zucchini and cucumber.
*Make sure you use the sharp side of the peeler or else you mash your vegetables, not shave!