The Magic of a Mandolin and Vegetable Carpaccio

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To spend the summer season living in Vermont has its peaks – all those green mountains, folks – and its perks, like the ever-flowing produce from farms just a property or two away from mine. With all those fresh vegetables and just-picked berries that would dazzle even beside a diamond, I thought keeping up with my mostly healthy lifestyle would be easy. You see, I’ve lost a lot of weight in the last year or two, mainly because I eat a vegetable forward diet that’s free of dairy, low in sugar, and adds in a little high quality animal protein each week. Except for the dairy thing – Vermont has amazing cheese – I figured I’d found my perfect food climate.

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But many weekends became parties waiting to happen. We’d work hard all week and arrive in the mountains late in the evening, always gravitating to what was readily accessible like late night cocktails and homemade nachos. I made Sbagliatos all summer, and eventually figured out how to make my own less syrupy Sweet Vermouth – but still, cocktails are often the opposite of low sugar. Though it was one long blurry summer party, the beef was grass-fed; the pancakes were loaded with buckwheat flour and blueberries; and the eggs were sourced from a local friend’s chicken coop, I did my very best to keep it mostly healthy, and here are two ways I kept the good veggie thing going:

1:

I cook quite frequently from the Dolly and Oatmeal blog and, earlier this year, its founder Lindsey Love published her first cookbook, Chickpea Flour Does It All. I’ve cooked with chickpea flour randomly in the past, and fell in love with a traditional application in the crepe-like Socca while staying in Nice, France, years ago. But to see all these recipes in one place got me playing around with the flour in unique ways, adding it to scones, pancakes, cakes, and using a roux from the stuff to make every cheese-like sauce ever, including a creamy mac and cheese. Lindsey’s take on Caesar Dressing is a household staple now – I drizzle it all over my Lettuce Wraps, too. The sweet and lovely Lindsey is having a baby – she’s having a baby! To celebrate, a bunch of us are featuring recipes for a virtual baby shower, and I hope this one does her justice. (You’ll find a list of all the recipes in the virtual baby shower at the end of this post.)

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2:

I am in love with my sharp-as-hell and always reliable green mandolin. It slices, it shreds, it almost cut my finger off once but taught me fast that, treated well and carefully, my mandolin can take down every sturdy vegetable and turn those slices into something effortlessly elegant. The height of elegance is, in fact, found in my go-to eat-all-your-veggies dish, Vegetable Carpaccio.

I love that traditional Carpaccio was invented by the founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice because I’ve been there. Apparently, he first prepared the dish for a countess when it was recommended that she eat raw meat. That traditional recipe features thinly sliced raw meat doused with lemon juice, olive oil, and a shaving of truffle or cheese. The versions I’ve had in Italy also have a pile of fresh, zippy arugula. The recipe has now extended to fish and, in this case, to fresh vegetables.

This Vegetable Carpaccio is stellar as a side dish or a salad to start or, as in Europe, end a meal. But in this case, I’m making five Carpaccios using different flavor combinations. Centered on a long table with extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and bread, these light dishes became a full lunch. We sopped up every last bit of oil, juice, and produce with bite-sized pulls of crunchy bread. I even sent someone off to an afternoon work thing with a tiered stainless lunch box, each compartment filled with unique precious cargo.

My Vermont summer and any night of the week is so much better thanks to my mandolin, and I’d like to share how I use it in this recipe. I hope there are many Vegetable Carpaccios in the Love family’s future! Congratulations, Lindsey!

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HOW-TO:

Mandolin Advice:

This is my preferred mandolin. I was gifted a $200 mandolin when I got married years ago, but was too scared to touch the thing. Over the years, it was gifted to a cook and I landed on this simple version because it’s affordable, light, and has versatile attachments.

Please learn quickly, the smart way, that you should never ever touch the blade on a mandolin. It’s probably sharper than most knives in your home. Don’t even graze it when you’re cleaning it, or you’ll learn the hard way to never ever touch the blade on a mandolin. Don’t learn the hard way, pretty please.

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Choosing Vegetables:

I slice sturdier vegetables (and fruits) with my mandolin. Soft greens don’t shred too easily with the tool and, well, anything soft, like tomatoes, won’t slice so beautifully. Vegetables that work really well are zucchini, cucumber, fennel, button mushrooms, summer squash, celery, onions, etc. – anything with a little heft.

Don’t forget the fruits: A mandolin works wonders on slicing lemons for lemonade or limes for cocktails. I’ve also used it on solid apples and pears for quick-baked desserts, topping a cake, or adding into a salad.

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Making a Dressing:

The topping has three simple ingredients in proportions that work for you: olive oil, citrus juice, and sea salt. Anything above those three ingredients is wonderful but unnecessary. I start with a base formula of 1 part olive oil to 1 part citrus juice to a pinch-worth sprinkle of sea salt. Since that’s vague, I put some general measurements in the recipe below, so you have a good place to start.

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I prefer to use a green and flavorful extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil; something older will just weigh down the fresh produce and make it taste a bit muddy. The citrus choice is up to you; here, I juiced lemons, limes, and even oranges. Before I juice them, I remove just the zest (not the white pith) with a micro-plane. I dust the zest over the shaved vegetable to show off the juice that’s on top and add extra zing (zest is loaded with zing, you heard it here).

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As for sea salt, go fine or coarse, it’s up to you. I tend to enjoy a crunchier sea salt on thicker, sturdier vegetables like fennel, and something more fine on delicate mushrooms but there’s no salt police, you are free to salt as you please.

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Sometimes, I like to enhance the dressing, make it more complex or just plain prettier. For these photos, I added on black sesame seeds, fennel fronds, and orange juice to the shaved fennel; smoked paprika and lemon juice are on the cucumber shavings; and lemon juice, zest, and black pepper was added to the mushrooms. The yellow squash slices had lime juice and zest and the zucchini had just lime juice and zest, too. Everything had sea salt, naturally.

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Here are all the other baby-shower-inspired recipes to celebrate Lindsey’s new baby from some of my favorite food writers:

Sweet Potato Millet Pancakes | The Full Helping
Mushroom and Kale Tacos | Brooklyn Supper
Butternut Squash French Toast | Edible Perspective
Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Sandwiches with Honey Olive Oil Ice Cream | Cake Over Steak
Roasted Green Tomato Soup with Herbed Oil | With Food + Love
Tart Cherry, Chocolate & Hempseed No-Bake Oat Bars | Kale & Caramel
Dark Chocolate Hummus | A Couple Cooks
Maitake Steaks with Cauliflower Purée | O&O Eats
Cucumber & Chamoe Melon Salad | Two Red Bowls
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam | The Sugar Hit
Miso Edamame Hummus with Baked Furikake Sweet Potato Chips | Fix Feast Flair
Mini Hazelnut Cakes | I am a Food Blog
The Magic of a Mandolin: Vegetable Carpaccio | Eat Boutique
Almond Chia Pudding with Roasted Grapes | Tending the Table
Peanut Butter and Dark Chocolate Puffed Millet Bars | Heart of a Baker

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Again, big congratulations to Lindsey of Dolly and Oatmeal. Thank you to A Couple Cooks and Cake Over Steak for pulling this all together. Heidi Murphy of White Loft Studio shot the photography. Those beautiful plates were a gift from a dear friend. And you can find both the mandolin and lunch container online. #welcomenewlittlelove

Vegetable Carpaccio

Ingredients:

  • 1 solid vegetable, cleaned and dried (I used zucchini, summer squash, cucumber, button mushrooms, fennel)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons citrus juice (my go-to is lemon or lime juice)
  • 1 teaspoon citrus zest (no pith)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 baguette, sliced, for serving (optional)

Directions:

  1. Using your mandolin and finger guard, carefully shave your vegetable over a cutting board. Arrange your shaved vegetable slices on a flat plate.
  2. Drizzle the oil and citrus juice over the arranged vegetables. Sprinkle the zest and salt over the arranged vegetables. Wait 10 minutes and serve with baguette slices. After the vegetables have been devoured, don't forget to slop up the liquids in the bottom of the plate with your bread.
Photos taken by Heidi Murphy/White Loft Studios.

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