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Shopping with chefs: Baby zucchinis at Pike Place

Daisley Gordon, chef-owner of Café Campagne in downtown Seattle, doesn’t have to go far to find fresh, summer ingredients when he’s in a pinch.

Gordon’s classic French restaurant is just steps from Pike Place Market. “I really do take it for granted that I can just run down here,” he said on a recent trip through the market.

Among the stacks of colorful produce, something caught his eye.

“These baby zucchinis, I don’t know if I want to squeal or cry when I look at them,” he said. “They’re just so cute.”

It’s high season at farmer’s markets around the region. So for the next few weeks we’re asking local chefs what’s fresh and how they would prepare it.

The humble zucchini: a vegetable that regularly gets overlooked. But these tiny baby zucchinis are about the size of Gordon’s fingers, and they do look too cute to pass up. Gordon says you don’t need to do much to them, especially for a salad.

Pale baby zucchinis are especially tender, he said.

“I would just wash them and cut them in wedges.”

Gordon was born in Jamaica, where he said vegetables are cooked for long periods of time. His introduction to eating fresh vegetables was from TV — not a cooking show, but from a series in the '60s called Family Affair.

Gordon recalled an episode in which two characters, two little kids, got lost and ended up on a farm. The kids were starving, and the only thing they could find were green beans, which they ate raw.

“And it was the biggest revelation,” Gordon recalled. “I didn’t know you could do that!”

Fast-forward several decades, to the stall with the fresh zucchinis at Pike Place. Gordon, now with extensive experience on how to prepare fresh veggies, advises that these baby zucchinis can be part of a grand aioli, a classic French dish consisting of vegetables, boiled fingerling potatoes, hard boiled eggs, maybe some poached fish served with garlicky homemade mayonnaise.

“And then some nice wine,” Gordon added. “And then good company. You want to be hungry, because hunger is a great seasoning.”

More inspiration for your baby zucchinis whipped up in Ruby's Desk Kitchen. Ruby followed the Epicurious recipe for aioli.