When I’m feeling wilted by the heat of the summer, how do I revive myself? Not by sweating it trying to cook in a hot kitchen. Instead, I make my vegetables do the wilting and turn them into salads. There’s no cooking involved in the process. Just salt.
It’s the same principle behind coleslaw. Have you noticed how thinly sliced cabbage goes from stiff to limp when sprinkled with salt and allowed to sit in a bowl for a few minutes? Salt draws out water from the cabbage. But it doesn’t just happen to cabbage. You can apply the same trick to zucchini and yellow squash, cucumbers, carrots, and even beets.
I like to use a mandoline to slice my vegetables into matchstick-thick strips. After tossing the strips with a little salt, they’ll soften into “noodles” after about 10 to 15 minutes. If you don’t have a mandoline though, you can achieve a similar effect by using a vegetable peeler to shave long pappardelle-like slices from those same vegetables.
Once the vegetable is wilted and softened, pour off any excess liquid (some vegetables give off more than others), then squeeze some lemon juice over the vegetable and toss it with fresh herbs. A drizzle of olive oil is nice but not essential. And of course, taste for seasoning. Just because you wilted vegetable slices with some salt doesn’t mean you won’t need a little more for balance.
I use about ¼ teaspoon salt for every ½ pound of vegetable, tossing the slices well to distribute the salt, and then let the mixture sit for at least 10 minutes. The longest wilting time is for beets, which clock in at 15 minutes because they’re so dense.
Feel free to mix it up with more than one vegetable. After shooting the picture above, I dumped all the vegetable “noodles” into a large bowl and tossed them into one big salad. Even though the beets can’t help bleeding a bit of their ruby red juice over the others, the salad was gorgeous, refreshing, and substantial enough to be a satisfying meal on a hot evening.