I’m fusing together a few of my favourite ingredients from my heritage and my adopted home: Japan and Italy.
Zucchini are in season at the moment and absolutely gorgeous right now, especially when they are sold in the markets with their blossoms still attached. I try to get the smaller, sweeter ones to eat raw or just barely cooked.
Daikon, like other Asian vegetables, is rather difficult to come by in Italy but I actually live in an area populated with Chinese immigrants, who have begun growing their own favourite vegetables and running little markets with imported Asian products, so I don’t have to miss super fresh bok choy, fresh tofu, Japanese bonito flakes and daikon.
I love grated daikon mixed with a little soy sauce and lemon juice as a dressing for steamed or tempura vegetables. It cuts anything that is a little fatty and has a great fresh taste. This little sauce was the inspiration for the unusual dressing I’ve thrown together here: olive oil, lemon juice, lemon segments (I just love biting in to little tangy pieces of lemon), grated daikon, honey for balance, red chilli and sea salt.
The main star of this dish, however, is the Sardinian bottarga. This beautiful, highly prized product is the salted, pressed and dried egg sack of Grey Mullet, the best examples of which come from Sardinia and Tuscany. Best eaten thinly sliced and raw, bottarga is also wonderful tossed through pasta or on crostini with its best partners, lemon and olive oil. Avoid the pre-grated stuff, if you want to try this delicacy properly, buy a whole one that you can then either grate or slice yourself. If you can’t find bottarga, you could substitute salmon roe or similar fish roe for a nice, salty pop and pretty colour. - Emiko
Test Kitchen Notes
This is an exceedingly elegant, refined salad. Emiko's devotion to detail is evident throughout, from the lightly crumbled lemon flesh through the tightly grated pulp of daikon to the brave and wonderfully heavy slices of bottarga. I smiled as I was composing this salad because I thought, this is the answer for all of us who have secretly craved just another taste of bottarga while finishing a plate of pasta upon which fish eggs had been all-too-lightly shaved. The only change I made to this recipe was to julienne the zucchini, just for kicks. I'd allow a little bit of time for the dressing's flavours to come together before serving; the radish and the chili especially need time to flavor the oil. - nogaga —nogaga
To prepare the dressing, cut the lemon in half. Use the juice of one half, and with the other half, slice it and avoiding the white pith, seeds and the membranes, crumble the lemon flesh between your fingers into small pieces. Place the lemon in a bowl together with the olive oil, the honey (alternatively you could substitute the honey and lemon for the juice of half an orange), the finely grated daikon (it should look like a paste), chilli (note that one whole small chilli might be too much for some; adapt to your preferences, you might find just half will do the trick) and a tiny pinch of sea salt – not too much, the bottarga is already salty. Whisk well and taste - there should be an even balance of acidity, sweetness and heat, depending on the products you use. Adjust to taste, then set aside.
Prepare the clean zucchini by creating long, thin strips with a potato peeler. You could also julienne them - either way the zucchini should be the freshest, crunchiest you can find and they should be cut really thin.
Toss the zucchini strips with the lemon and daikon dressing and divide evenly between plates. With a sharp knife, very thinly slice the bottarga and place several pieces on each plate. Some finely chopped chives make a nice but optional garnish. The should be served in a small amount as a starter.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.