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olive oil

Zucchini Noodles with Walnut Pesto

TIME: 30 MINUTES; SERVES: 2

Zucchini noodles, or ‘Zoodles’, have become somewhat of a mascot within the low-carb food community. I have a tendency to approach most food trends with a level of skepticism. Food marketing generally operates from a profit-forward standard, rather than nutritional or ecological. So when a fancy new super food promising “antioxidant-rich!” “sugar-free!” or “healthy!” pops up, I have three main standards on whether it’s worth investigating: 1. Can I grow this? 2. If not, can it be purchased locally? 3. If so, is it grown or raised organically/responsibly?

“Zoodles” pass through all these hoops for me. Even though I wouldn’t label summer squash a nutrition powerhouse, it is yummy and we do grow it. Zoodles have become a gluten-free answer to that slurpy, noodly craving that can hit without warning.

Granted, I’ll eat grilled or roasted zucchini any day alongside a rich pesto dip, but this is a fun way to mix it up. Zoodles can also shine in a light, savory broth, or with a cream-based sauce. I purchased a 5-Blade Vegetable Slicer, and even though it takes up a fair amount of kitchen space and is a little bulky, it’s so easy to use and clean, I have no hesitation busting it out.

I use the word “pesto” very loosely in this recipe. Feel free to make it dairy-free by cutting out the optional Parmesan, or substitute different nuts, seeds, or herbs.

INGREDIENTS

Zoodles
1 large zucchini or 2 medium (Even though the smaller squash generally taste better, I’ve found the larger ones easier to “spiralize")
Salt & fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp. high heat oil, bacon grease, or butter/ghee
(Dairy-free) Walnut “Pesto”
2 cups packed Italian basil (I use the whole plant: leaves, tender stems, flowers, etc.). You can substitute parsley or arugula for some or all of the basil.
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 cup walnuts or favorite nut (pine nuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, etc.)
Salt & fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for serving
Juice from 1 lemon, to taste
1 - 2 tbls. water to thin, if necessary
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (opt.)

METHOD

  1. For the pesto, put all ingredients except water into a food processor and process until very smooth. If not using Parmesan, it is important to use a generous amount of salt—start with less and add to taste after blending. If it’s too thick, add a tbls. at a time of water. You will need to use enough oil to coat the noodles in a smooth sauce.

  2. If you don’t have a spiralizer, use a mandolin with a julienne blade or a vegetable peeler to make long ribbons. You can even julienne by hand if you’re confident in your knife skills.

  3. Sprinkle the zoodles with salt and let sit for a few minutes in a colander.

  4. Heat cooking fat in a large skillet. Sear the zoodles in a single layer. Do not stir, rather let them slightly brown on one side and then flip over. It is very important they don’t crowd the pan so that they sear quickly. Crowding results in soggy, overcooked zoodles. Transfer to a wide serving dish.

  5. Top with the pesto and mix very gently to incorporate. Serve topped with roasted cherry tomatoes and chicken, or alongside a few slices of bacon and crumbled goat cheese

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Marinated Italian Eggplant

TIME: 20 MINUTES (plus salting & marinating) SERVES: 1+ PINT
Adapted from Linda Ziedrich’s ‘The Joy of Pickling’

I get a lot of questions about how to best use eggplants. There are plenty of ways to blister, broil, grill, or purée this nightshade, however, one of my favorite uses is raw! When I have too many young, fresh fruits, I make this version of marinated eggplant (drowned in olive oil, because…always). This is delicious with sharp cheese & salami as a tasty antipasto, or in sandwiches with arugula, provolone and roasted red peppers.

INGREDIENTS

2 - 3 smallish Italian or Asian Eggplant, peeled, halved & sliced into 1/4 inch half moons (about 2 cups)
1 tbls. kosher salt
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 - 4 garlic cloves, slivered
10 - 12 Italian basil leaves, torn
A pinch crushed red pepper flakes

METHOD

  1. Sprinkle the salt over the eggplant in a colander, and let drain for as little as 30 minutes, but up to 1 day.

  2. Squeeze out any extra moisture from the eggplant. Toss with the vinegar, oil, & crushed red pepper flakes in a large bowl, and let sit for another hour, turning occasionally.

  3. Layer the eggplant, garlic, & basil in a jar and gently press down.

  4. Pour any remaining marinade over. If it doesn’t cover, add more olive oil.

  5. Seal and let sit in the fridge for at least 3 days before tasting. Make sure to add more olive oil if necessary. The eggplant will keep for a couple weeks. Let it reach room temperature before serving, because the oil will solidify.

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