Cook the Books: Garden Spells~

24 07 2011

Our latest reading at Cook the Books was Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen.  A lovely and literally enchanting novel with echoes of the movie “Practical Magic” (setting, characters…and only the light aspects of the plot), this was a quick read that inspired the gardener in me to make sure we had plenty of herbs and other tasties growing in our garden this year.  Great timing for this one, Girlichef-Heather!

I was completely enchanted with the magical concepts Ms. Allen created…different herbs, fruits and veggies enhance different emotions…  As far as making magic in the kitchen after the food is in for prep…that was nicely portrayed as well, but I was most fascinated by the combinations of ingredients to create a desired emotional result!

My sharing for this read is a Zucchini Carpaccio, inspired by Tyler Florence’s recipe.

When I was out in the garden collecting mint for this dish, I realized we had mint in bloom…and it reminded me of  “fennel pollen,” so I had to see!  Sure enough, when I nibbled on a mint flower…looks rather like lavender with tiny lavender colored blossoms on a long stalk…

so I harvested a bunch of the little tiny minty flowers to use as part of my garnish…mint was an ingredient after all!  I chopped the mint leaves nice and fine, then mixed the tiny flowers with the mint leaves…  It’s even starting to feel magical!

The blank canvas awaits...

Zucchini Carpaccio

Recipe adapted from Tyler Florence’s recipe

Serves 4


  • 2 medium zucchini (or seedless portions of larger specimens)
  • Kosher or freshly ground salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin lemon olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 shallot, sliced thinly and separated into rings
  • 2-4 ounce piece of Parmesan (Romano works equally well)
  • Fresh mint leaves and flowers, for garnish


Using a mandolin or a very sharp knife, slice zucchini into very thin rounds. Overlap zucchini disks in 1 layer on a plate; scatter with shallots, season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the lemon olive oil and squeeze the lemon juice  over the salad. Shave very thin slices of Parmesan or Romano over the salad. Garnish with mint leaves. Serve immediately.

* Once the zucchini is sliced and arranged on the plate, it can wait while any other cooking goes on. Dress and garnish just before serving.

Tasting Notes~
Instant keeper!   One…when you’re looking for any different way to serve an abundance of zucchini…it helps to find something different, but two, when you run across a recipe that excites the tastebuds the way this one does…WOW!!  Zucchini is rather neutral on its own.  Pairing with lemon and olive oil as Tyler did, was ingenious.  Take that just a little higher on the ladder with local lemon olive oil, freshly picked mint leaves, shallot ( a little more bite, provided a really great contrast) and a squeeze of lemon juice…and you have a delightfully bright Summer salad.  It’s also quick to go together.  I have a mandoline, so it made the slicing quite easy, so I know we’re going to be having this salad again soon!

Great choice of reads for the Summer ladies!!  I’m looking forward to getting into A Homemade Life!



9 responses

27 07 2011

Tyler’s Zucchini Carpaccio is one of my very favorite summer recipes. I love that you picked it for the book. I need to let my mint flower just for this purpose–so pretty. 😉

27 07 2011

That plate of zucchini look very nice. I can’t wait for my mint to have flowers, so I can try them. Thanks to the nice book selection, I am learning all these new ways of using flowers 🙂

27 07 2011

{thanks :)} This is such a delicate, seductive plate…so perfect!

27 07 2011
Alicia (Foodycat)

So pretty! Your dish looks so perfect for summer! Even using a mandolin my slicing is never that beautiful.

26 07 2011

I, loved this book, too! I thought it was really fun and you did a great job really interpreting the book. This zucchini looks delicious and it will definitely be on our table this weekend (I have zucchini coming out of my ears!).

26 07 2011

You inspired me to be alert for mint blossoms in my garden. I don’t think mine have ever bloomed. This carapaccio looks delightfully delish.

26 07 2011
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen: A Cook the Books Roundup « Cook the Books Club

[…] into her own garden to use mint flowers for the first time in her “delightfully bright” Zucchini Carpaccio. Pass the […]

24 07 2011

I agree—great book. This dish looks perfect for summer. I can’t wait to try it.

24 07 2011
Rachel at the Crispy Cook

I’m so happy that you enjoyed the book and that it inspired you to create such a fragrant and beautiful dish. I will have to try this (no mandoline for me, though, I’ll have to use my knife) when my zukes really start flying out of the garden.

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