Raw zucchini salad with walnuts and mature cheese - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul

Vidar Bergum is a food writer and cookbook author based in Istanbul, Turkey.

Courgettes are tastiest when small. When I can get them, I have them raw.

Courgettes aren’t blessed with a whole lot of flavour. Still, I’ve taken a liking to this humble vegetable, which occupies an important part of the Turkish kitchen. Any half decent greengrocer will stock the light green Turkish variety all year round.

Still, I doubt that many of the courgettes sold in Turkey avoids the heat of a hot pan, pot or oven. Turks are, quite rightly, fond and proud of their traditional foods and prepare it just like the previous generations did: hulled and stuffed, as fritters or as fried vegetables, served with yoghurt and perhaps a tomato sauce. Whilst they have every reason to go back to each of those methods of preparation, they’re missing out by ignoring some of the summer squash’s best qualities.

Raw zucchini salad with walnuts and mature cheese - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul

For raw salads, I find the smaller courgettes best. The ones which have matured long enough to develop a good flavour (baby ones usually haven’t) – but not so mature that they’ve grown large, filled with seeds and quite literally had its flavour watered out. Somewhere in the region 100 to 150 grams appears to be perfect, at least for the light green Turkish variety I buy at the weekly market.

Photo: Bahar Kitapci

Huge meze spread seen from above
Photo: Bahar Kitapci
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Those courgettes don’t need a lot of help. With such a mellow and subtle flavour, anything but keeping it minimalist is indeed not really an option in any case. A little splash of vinegar and olive oil, to build up the flavour. A few walnuts, for bite. And a little cheese, because there is never anything wrong with a little cheese. For a vegan version, fry a few drained capers in plenty of hot olive oil until crispy instead. A perfect little snack or starter in summer, when the sun is finally out and you feel like something light, simple and incredibly tasty. Serves two.

Raw zucchini salad with walnuts and mature cheese - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul

Raw courgette salad with walnuts & matured cheese

Raw zucchini salad with walnuts & cheese - recipe / A kitchen in Istanbul
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Ingredients

  • 1 small courgette (100-150 g)
  • 0.5 tsp sherry vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 6-8 walnut halves, broken into 2 or 3 pieces
  • 40-50 g mature cheese to taste, crumbled
  • salt and black pepper

My method

  1. Cut the ends of the courgette. Using a vegetable peeler, slice into thin strips lengthwise.
  2. Mix the courgette slices with the vinegar, olive oil and a little salt and pepper (keeping in mind the cheese will add more saltiness).
  3. Place the courgette slices one at a time in a nice, wavy pattern, ensuring plenty of air between each slice. (See pictures above.) Top with the walnuts and cheese. I use a Turkish cheese called Izmir tulum, but any hard or semi hard mature cheese you like will do (parmegiano reggiano, pecorino, manchego or cheddar, for example). Top with a little freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.

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Hey, there!

I’m Vidar. For the past few years, I’ve been exploring the foods of Turkey, the Middle East and beyond from my house in Balat, Istanbul. Let me show you around!

My books

I’ve published two books on Turkish and Middle Eastern food, available in Norwegian and German.

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Vidar Bergum on the front porch of his home, drinking tea, with a street cat eating something on the street in front of him