I realize you may not need another recipe for zucchini noodles, but I have to say, they’re still one of my favorite bases for a quick and veggie-packed dinner (they’re actually quicker to make than regular pasta, too).
I love sweet potato and butternut squash noodles for a more carby bowl, but zucchini noodles are so neutral that they play nicely with all kinds of flavor. My only issue with them is that they don’t always fill me up, so bulking a bowl of them up with healthy fats (like olive oil and torn olives) and protein (from lentil no-meatballs in this case, but they’re also great with a poached egg, salmon, lamb meatballs, chickpeas, etc.)
As we approach the heat of summertime, I’m trying to find more creative ways to keep cooking to a minimum while still infusing dinners with plenty of flavor. I’ve found that a few ingredients and tricks that help:
1. Herbs — fresh and torn or pureed into an herby oil or pesto taste fresh and brighten up any dish.
2. Lightly sauteeing — enough to create the texture you want and avoiding the harsh crunchiness of a fully raw meal, but not so much as to make you and your kitchen a hot mess.
3. Alliums — this one goes without saying when you’re talking flavor, but a little sauteed garlic or shallots have the power to transform any vegetable they mingle with.
4. Good quality fats — extra virgin olive oil, infused oils (I’m very interested in lemon oil rn), grass-fed butter, avocado, olives, etc. all make vegetables taste more indulgent, bring out their natural flavors, and actually help our bodies absorb the vitamins and minerals in the vegetables better.
5. Salt and salty things — I’ve you’re holding back on salt for health reasons, let’s talk. If you’re preparing your own vegetable-centric meals at home, there’s no reason not to salt. The “bad” kind of sodium comes from heavily processed packaged foods, not from a sprinkle of pink Himalayan salt. The potassium in most vegetables will cancel out the sodium in a typical meal prepared by YOU. Plus, it brings out the natural flavors in vegetables and makes them taste decidedly un-bland. But for max tastiness, don’t limit yourself to Maldon, look to salty cheeses like feta and parm as a seasoning or use cured olives and capers to add that saline hit.
The below zucchini noodle dish uses all of these principles for a quick, flavor packed vegetable-centric dinner.
Makes about 12 balls
- 1 cup french de puy lentils, dried
- Olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 egg or chia egg
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- Salt & pepper
- Pesto (store-bought is good)
- Zucchini noodles
1. Place lentils in a medium pot covered with a few inches of water. Bring to a boil and cook at a simmer for 30 minutes, adding a good pinch of salt in the last 10 minutes of cooking.
2. While lentils are cooking, combine a glug of olive oil (enough to generously cover the base of a small pan or skillet) and the chopped garlic and shallots. Heat over a medium-low heat until sizzling and shallots are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. Drain the lentils and while they’re still warm, puree in a blender or food processor until a rough lentil paste is formed (sounds gross I know, but stay with me).
4. Transfer lentils to a large mixing bowl and combine with the sauteed garlic and shallots, and the remaining ingredients. Mix everything really well until combined. Let sit for a few minutes to let the flavors mingle. Shape into golf ball-sized balls.
5. Heat a medium skillet over a medium heat. Add enough olive oil to cover the base. Place 4 to 5 lentil balls in the skillet (allowing for space between each). Cook for about 3-4 minute until turning golden and flip them around to the other side and cook for another few minutes until browned and crispy on the outside. Repeat with remaining lentil balls.
Zucchini Noodles with Garlic, Olives & Basil
- 2 medium zucchini or summer squash, spiralized or peeled into noodle form (if spiralized, make sure to cut your noodles to a manageable size)
- Olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- ½ cup pitted and chopped Castelvetrano or Sicilian olives
- Pinch chili flakes
- Juice of half a lemon
- Handful fresh basil, torn or roughly chopped
- Cashew Parmesan (recipe follows) or regular parmesan
1. Heat a large pan/skillet over a medium heat. Add a glug of olive oil (enough to cover the base of the pan). Add garlic and good for about 1 minute until fragrant.
2. Add zucchini noodles, and cook, stirring for about 2 to 3 minutes until the noodles are warmed through and tender but still “al dente”.
3. Remove from heat and stir in olives, chili flakes and lemon juice. Top with herbs and parmesan/cashew parmesan.
4. Serve with lentils no-meatballs with a little pesto on top. Or, if you don’t have time to make the no-meatballs, serve with a poached or fried egg on top or 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas per bowl.
Makes ½ cup
- ½ cup cashews, lightly toasted
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- ¼ teaspoon dried garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
1. If you haven’t toasted your cashews, pop them in a 350°F oven for 5 to 8 minutes until golden. Watch them carefully as they can burn. Allow to cool.
2. Combine all ingredients in a small food processor until cashews are finely chopped and it resembles a fluffy Parmesan-like consistency.