On Orchard Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, there is a teeny tiny French restaurant. When my best friend Cassandra moved to that neighborhood almost two years ago, this little magical spot became her new Barbette (i.e. go-to restaurant for great food, wine, and ambiance). The restaurant is called Zucco: Le French Diner.
Over the course of the next eighteen months, Cass shared this miniscule gem with all her friends and family who came to NYC. I have been fortunate enough to go there twice.
The owner of the restaurant is the infamous Zucco himself. He is the epitome of French-ness. Thin and scraggly bearded, mysterious but charismatic, a thick French accent, and constant cigarettes. I couldn't keep my eyes off him.
(image from this link)
Cassandra's favorite menu item at Zucco's is La Salade De Legumes, which is just mixed vegetables with tofu and parmesan cheese. It looks very delicious but I have never ordered it (I usually try to order something different than everyone at the table). So I have really no idea what it tastes like or what ingredients are even in it.
But I needed to eat an approximation of this salad in the worst way because Zucco died unexpectedly yesterday. I need to do something to honor this guy who got to see my best friend more often than I do. And Cass is so upset by his passing - which makes me upset. I assume that as a Frenchman who opened a diner in New York City, Zucco would understand that my way of honoring him is through food.
La Salade De Legumes, inspired by Zucco: Le French Diner
Assorted vegetables, cut small (I used mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, and green beans)
Extra-firm tofu, liquid pressed out and cut into small cubes
Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
1 small shallot, minced fine
2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Coat the veggies and tofu in extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until all ingredients are crisp-tender.
Meanwhile mix ingredients for vinaigrette in a bowl with a whisk or shake in a mason jar.
Toss roasted veggies and tofu with vinaigrette and shredded parmesan.
Serve with LOTS of champagne or rose wine and give a big CHEERS to Zucco.
ONE YEAR AGO: Halibut en Papillote