Better late than never.
True, today’s the last day of Veg Week 2013 (I’m a tad late getting this post in, by about 7 days), but there’s no reason we can’t keep it going. There are 52 weeks in a year, so why not let one of those weeks – ANY one of those weeks – be a break from eating meat?
In honor of this annual U.S. event now in its fifth year, I’m passing on this Zucchini Pesto Pasta recipe I created on the fly using the most fun kitchen appliance I’ve come across in a while: the Paderno World Cuisine A4982799 Tri-Blade Plastic Spiral Vegetable. Which is just a very long phrase for what I call my vegetable spaghetti maker, and worth every penny of the $29.99 I spent for it on Amazon. A known kitchen gadget freak, I don’t know how this one escaped my radar for so long.
First, a confession: though I love and enjoy all kinds of vegetables, I was always kind of “Meh, not so much” when it came to zucchinis. Alone, its flavor and texture – when served in the traditional circular or lengthwise cut – just didn’t really do anything for me. It tasted bland, and seemed to have no personality. Sure, I’d let one get past me if it was tucked in a grilled veggie sandwich, obscured by a lot of other yummy fillings and lathered in a nice chipotle lime mayo or garlic aioli. I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to eat one, and aside from zucchini bread, had no use for it.
But that was life pre-spiral slicer. Just look at the amount of “spaghetti” this thing cranks out from only two zucchinis:
Big fun! I can’t fully explain it, but now that my zucchini can be slurped like noodles, with a nice al dente mouthfeel and slight crunch, it’s taken on a whole new flavor profile, and range of culinary possibilities. Case in point, it is absolutely delicious when sauteed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, garlic, onions, portobello mushroom slices, sweet peas, roasted grape tomatoes, and then topped with creamy and delicious Vegan Basil Pine Nut Pesto. This dish (recipe below) is a dream for those who are following vegan, gluten-free, low-carb, Paleo and/or detox diets, or who are trying to get their kids to eat more vegetables. And it’s the perfect entree to kick off your own Veg Week, whenever you happen to celebrate it. Enjoy!
This recipe is highly adaptable. You can adjust the levels of pesto sauce and ingredients to your liking, and use a variety of other vegetables, depending on what's in season. Gluten-free and vegan, it's great for those weeks when you're detoxing, and might be the one sure-fire way to get your kids to eat their veggies. Especially when you let them work the crank on the spiral slicer!
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2-3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced in crescents
- 2 zucchinis
- 1 large portobello mushroom
- 1 cup grape tomatoes
- 1/2 cup frozen or fresh sweet peas, steamed/cooked (optional)
- handful of pine nuts, to garnish
- salt and pepper to taste
- Prepare the Vegan Basil-Pine Nut Pesto, and set aside.
- Preheat oven or broiler to 400 degrees.
- Using the Paderno or other vegetable spiral slicer (check full post for product links), process the zucchinis into long spiral slices. Set aside.
- Roast or broil the grape tomatoes until they are slightly charred (about 8 minutes), but not so soft and soupy that they won't hold their shape during tossing. Set aside when done.
- Slice the portabello mushroom into the thinnest slices you can without them breaking, and set aside.
- Preheat a large saute pan (medium to high), and then add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. When the oil is hot enough, add the sliced garlic and onions and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Adjust the heat from high to medium as needed, to prevent scorching.
- Add the mushrooms and cook down for another 10 minutes, or until they brown and soften into ribbons. Stir in the cooked peas (if using), and set the mixture aside.
- In the same or another pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and then add the zucchini spirals. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for about 10-15 minutes, or until it reaches your desired al dente texture.
- Add back in the mushroom mixture. Pour in enough pesto sauce to coat evenly, toss in the tomatoes, and serve immediately, garnished with pine nuts. Enjoy!