Sunday, April 19, 2015

Zucchini & Summer Squash Noodles with Garlic and Mint


Sunday dinner is in full swing over here! I'm doing a little bit of a Chopped episode at home turning some end of the week scraps and freezer leftovers into a ragu for fresh pasta. With noodles on the brain, I thought I would take a minute to do a quick post on an easy veggie side dish my family has been enjoying lately. One of the challenges many of us face trying to eat healthier foods is making vegetables interesting. I am really good for roasting a pan of vegetables with salt and pepper and calling it a day, and my parents are big fans of those steamable microwave bags. Not that there is anything wrong with either, but it's also a good idea to break up the monotony sometimes. Transforming veggies you already love into a different texture is an easy way to add some variety to your menu. You can still keep things simple and let the vegetables shine.


For this recipe, I mixed zucchini and summer squash which both are mild in flavor and can be julienned easily. I make this as one of the vegetable sides for my parents' weekly meal prep, and the noodles hold up surprisingly well to being reheated. They do release quite a bit of liquid, so if you plan to  use them for some other kind of sauce just know you'll need to adjust for that. Although nothing replaces actual pasta in my opinion, this is a really nice alternative if you want something flavorful and veggie-based. I think it's even better than roasting spaghetti squash because the noodles are firmer and don't take nearly as long to prepare.


You may have seen ads on television for vegetable spiralizers (there are several brands) so any of those will work for this recipe. The one at my grocery store is a little pricey so I've always decided against buying it. I'm so cheap about stuff like that. I'll spend $20 on olive oil but avoided buying a rolling pin for years because used wine bottles are free. Anyway, one day I randomly found an unopened julienne vegetable peeler in the back of my mom's junk drawer, and I realized all this time I could have just been using that! I was excited to finally try my hand at zucchini noodles and they didn't disappoint. Even though I seasoned my squash the same way I usually do when sauteing, the texture of the noodles really made it feel like a brand new dish.



Zucchini & Summer Squash Noodles with Garlic and Mint

Ingredients:
2 lbs zucchini (approx. 5 cups julienned)
2 lbs summer squash (approx. 3 cups julienned)
4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 c. chopped mint leaves
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1 lemon
Extra virgin olive oil, as needed
Kosher salt & cracked black pepper, as needed

Servings: 4 to 6
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Suggested Equipment: Deep skillet, julienne peeler or vegetable spiralizer

If you have one of those fancy gadgets, this part will go a lot faster, but it's really not that much work the manual way. Just slice off the ends of the zucchini and go to town. With a little pressure, slide the julienne peeler from top to bottom, creating the noodles. For the summer squash, I julienned a couple rows all the way around and stopped when I reached the core. There are just too many seeds on the inside to get decent noodles.


Only other thing to do is chop up some parsley and mint. Mint is so ridiculously good with zucchini. Sometimes I saute zucchini just for a reason to have mint.


When you're ready to get going, coat the bottom of your skillet with oil (a few tablespoons is fine) and heat over medium. Sprinkle your pepper flakes into the oil and grate all of the garlic. Let that sizzle for just 30 seconds or so to flavor the oil. I wrote the recipe for olive oil, but you can use whatever decent cooking oil you have for this part. I have been using a basting oil made with grape seed oil, infused with garlic and thyme. 


Gradually add all of the noodles. The noodles will wilt down pretty quickly so just add what fits at a time. Season with plenty of salt and pepper as you go, tossing the noodles into the oil and garlic.


Saute the noodles for a couple minutes, just enough so that they soften but still have some bite left. Then add all of the fresh herbs, and grate in the zest of the lemon.


Toss again for another minute. There should be a good bit of liquid in the pan but don't cook it too much more or you'll have soup on your hands.


Finish with a squeeze of lemon and drizzle some good quality olive oil over the top. So simple, but seriously good.  Enjoy as a side dish or a bed for your favorite pasta sauce.