Garlic Pesto Zucchini Noodles with Sauteed Mushrooms and Tomatoes
This post is sort of another recipe and sort of another plant-based cooking tutorial. Gluten-free pasta is great and all but if you are really interested in packing the nutrients into your meals, I highly suggest that you learn how to cook a spaghetti squash (you can google it but I’ll write a post on this soon) and that you invest in a julienne peeler to make “noodles” out of raw zucchini.
I purchased my julienne peeler from Williams-Sonoma at the Kenwood mall in Cincinnati but you can also find them on their website HERE. When I am in more of a hurry, I use this spiral slicer from Bed Bath & Beyond. Find it HERE. I LOVE the spiral slicer but the difference here is that the julienne peeler will set you back about $10 while the spiral slicer will set you back $30. If you’re not sure you’ll be making a ton of veggie noodles, that may not be a wise investment for you.
To make this dish, you will need:
A julienne peeler or spiral slicer
Seasoning of choice (I used Flavor God’s garlic lover’s seasoning)
Sea salt to taste
4-6 mushrooms (sliced and then halved) (depending on size)
8 cherry tomatoes (or similar) (cut into quarters)
4 oz of pesto sauce (give or take a little)
(Note: you can make your own pesto if you have a food processor but I don’t always have time for that so I picked up Le Grand brand pesto which can be found near the dairy products at the Fresh Market near Kenwood. I’m pretty sure every grocery store has pesto though.)
(If you’re not into the vegan thing, see recommended modifications at the end of this recipe)
– First, use your julienne peeler or spiral slicer to create noodles out of the zucchini. They will be very full of water so I usually use a paper towel to squeeze them and get some of the water out once I am done peeling them into a bowl. Once you have drained some water out, set them aside.
(Note: if you plan to cook/heat the zucchini noodles, having some water will be beneficial but if you ever plan to eat them cold, you will want to essentially ring the noodles out.)
– Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet and heat for a minute at medium heat. Add about a teaspoon (or 1 clove) of garlic and sauté for about a minute. Now add your mushrooms and continue to saute for about 3 minutes or until the mushrooms look done. Set aside.
– Rinse your skillet out with warm water (or wipe it down to get mushroom residue out) and another 1- 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, heat for a minute over medium heat. Now add your zucchini noodles to the pan to heat them up. In order to not turn them to mush, don’t stir them. You want to move them around the pan gently.
– Once the zucchini noodles are mostly heated, add the mushrooms back to the pan and season with your seasonings of choice. If you don’t have Flavor God garlic lover’s seasoning, I would recommend that you go with some garlic powder and parsley and of course, sea salt.
– Toss together and then add pesto sauce. Continue to toss in the skillet until it is all heated and then move the zucchini and mushroom to your serving dishes.
– Return skillet to heat and add tomatoes. You aren’t trying to cook the tomatoes, only to warm them a bit. Toss them around the skillet for no more than a minute then top your “pasta” dish with them and VOILA!!! A 13 minute meal packed with nutrients. (Each serving includes 2 zucchinis, 3 mushrooms, and 4 little tomatoes… take that, suggested daily vegetable servings!)
I always suggest modifications because I am not strictly a vegan eater. When I cook, I usually like to use a vegan base recipe. Sometimes, I will serve it as is and other times, I will add meat or even a little cheese depending on the time of day and how I am feeling.
If you wish to add cheese to this dish, I recommend a shredded mozzarella cheese. (I added cheese half-way through eating this just so I could see how it would taste and it was so good it was basically criminal.)
If you are looking to keep this dish paleo and would like to add some meat, I suggest you either sauté some shrimp in olive oil and garlic and add them at the very end or that you add chicken. If I were to add chicken, I would either cut chicken breast into bite sized pieces and cook it in a skillet or you could even bake garlic and herb chicken breast and serve it on the side. To avoid using a ton of oil when cooking chicken, using chicken broth to either bake or sauté it works wonders.
Some random kitchen science notes:
– Always be aware of what type of oil you are cooking with. Not every oil is intended to be heated to every temperature. Olive oil really shouldn’t be used to cook anything above medium heat as high heat causes it to produce potentially harmful bi-products (some have been linked to cancer). Coconut oil however is great to use when cooking at high-temperatures.
– Sea salt is definitely a step up from table salt when it comes to your health but if you happen to see it, pick up Himalayan sea salt. It is a pinkish color and can usually be found on the spice isle. Instead of explaining all of the things that are wrong with table salt and even some sea salt, I encourage you to check out this LINK if you feel so inclined. (It’s much more informative than me giving you a brief summary as the article hits on all of the major points from a nutrition/health perspective.)
– Although it’s easier to just add everything to a skillet and cook it all at once, I find that you can create a much more dynamic flavor if you cook each ingredient separately, “set aside” and combine them at the end. I use this same method of “making things a bigger pain in the butt than they have to be” for almost every dish I cook (slow cooker and soup cooking not included). If you don’t typically do this, try it out the next time you cook and see if you can tell the difference. It’s more of a layered flavoring effect rather than just giving the dish one overall flavor.
Happy kitchen experimenting!