Chef Joey Campanaro's Favorite Zucchini Dish

Watch as chef Joey Campanaro goes into the kitchen with his former boss at The Red Cat in New York City to prepare his favorite dish: warm zucchini with toasted almonds and Pecorino.

Read the transcript of this video
I'm Joey Campanaro, chef and owner of the Little Owl restaurant, Greenwich Village, New York City. [MUSIC] I'm at The Red Cat restaurant in Chelsea and I'm gonna have the quick saute of zucchini with almonds and pecorino. No. [MUSIC] Jimmy Bradley's the chef and owner and a long time friend of mine. I was actually his sous chef for many years. One of the reasons why I chose to work for him Is this dish. It's a warmed zucchini, so it releases its sweet liquor. And then with the crunch and the richness of the almonds, this dish is hands down my favorite. [MUSIC] So the thing that I think is cool about this dish Is that it's four ingredients, and you don't need a lot of mechanics or machinery to get it done. It's best if you use the little guys because the little guys don't have a lot of seeds in the middle, and the seeds are where the water is, and you don't want the water in the dish. [MUSIC] We basically shave them into little slices, and then we go through that and chop them down into what resembles little match sticks. Sticks. You know people appreciate simple things when they're good. So the trick with this dish is you have to make it good. I've probably made this dish a thousand times but wasn't able to perfect it until the 990th time. [LAUGH] I first started making the dish in 1990. Yeah. 23 years. So that's gotta be 200,000 times. And that's the ones we serve. Right? Because we only count what we serve. Because the thing with this dish is there's no margin of error. It's either perfect or you have to throw it out. [BLANK_AUDIO] So for this to be one of the easiest dishes, it ends up Being actually very difficult as well. Well it's super, super easy but you have to maintain constant awareness. You at best, you can turn, turn back. And if your not plating it then, then your just throwing it away. [MUSIC] So, let's make one. Heat it up to a nice medium. So olive oil is one of those oils that you can't get too too hot. Yeah, your not really sauteing even thought it does say saute on the menu. Your basically warming the dish. So, the only cooking your doing is toasting the almonds. Once you start to see the almonds turning brown. Add your zucchini. Little bit of salt. Cut the zucchini with the almonds and the hot oil. You're not gonna cook it anymore. You can turn the heat off. Toss it about three or four times. Touch it with the back of your hand. Once it's barely warm, bring it to the plate. [NOISE] We use a slice or a shard of the pecorino or romano because what we want to do is we want to make a teepee and we want the steam from the zucchini to warm the cheese. With grated cheese it's like what's the point? And you have to make it with this cheese because The parmesan cheese just isn't salty enough. With four ingredients, they have to go perfectly together. We finish the dish with extra virgin olive oil. One of the ways when you know the dish is improperly prepared is if you were to lean it to the side and see the juice from the zucchini coming out That would mean the zucchini was cooked, and that would mean that it's overcooked. Again, you're just warming the zucchini with the hot oil. Alright, so after all these years, I need to know. [LAUGH] Where did this dish come from? I never told you? No, you just told me to make them. It comes from a woman In Rome named Rosanna. And she made me this dish, and I just said, hey Rosanna, as long as I live, as long as I cook, I'm gonna make that dish in New York. Well, at least you came clean with Rosanna. Yeah. [MUSIC] I'm a sucker for texture. You know when you heat up almonds and you get them a little bit toasty in the olive oil. The almonds release their oil but yet they still maintain that crunch. And so there's three levels of crunch. You get a crunch from the pecorino. You get a snack from the zucchini itself and from the almonds. I mean it's literally the perfect dish It almost makes me bad because it's like, damn, why didn't I think of that? [MUSIC]
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Chef Joey Campanaro's Favorite Zucchini Dish


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