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Can zucchini be the star player in your dish?

August 15th, 2013 1 Comment



In all honesty, this is my first time to cook, and not cook, with zucchini.  It always seems like filler to me: chunky, bland, with nothing really to bring to table.  Then, I ate at M.A.K.E.,  an all raw restaurant on the top of the Santa Monica mall (terrible location but the food blows my mind).  We ordered the raw lasagna (which I now eat almost weekly) where they used ribboned zucchini instead of noodles. I noticed the zuchinni’s mild flavor and sturdy flesh allows it to support food with bigger personalities.

When I saw the squash at the farmer’s market, I decided to try my hand with it.  Below are two recipes using zuchhini ribbons as “noodles” that were very well received amongst my recent guests, one of which was paleo.  She says the zucchini noodles are the answer to her paleo prayers!

The first I totally made up on the fly; the second is from one of my favorite cookbooks/food-bloggers, Smitten Kitchen.

In both I used a mandolin to get the zucchini into thin slices, but you can also try a regular peeler to make your ribbons.  Just note that a peeler will give you more ribbons without the skin, which makes it sturdy.  So if you have to use peeler, you’ll need to cut cooking time or serve the raw ribbons quickly.

Chicken Basil Bolognese Salad

Chicken Basil Bolognese Salad

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 3/4 lb ground chicken
  • Organicville Tomato and Basil Sauce (Whole Foods)
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh basil, leaves sliced
  • 1 zucchini
  • Spinach
  • Cooked quinoa (not for paleo people!)
  • Garlic
  • Grape seed oil
  • Salt, pepper
  • Optional: 1/4 onion, diced fresh tomatoes, grated parmesean cheese



  1. Chop up 1/4 of an onion and mince 2 cloves of garlic.  Sautee in a heated pan. Add chicken, season with salt and pepper, cook until ALMOST done, but not all the way through. Drain out the juice.
  2. Add 1/2 jar of tomato sauce and set to simmer.
  3. Using a mandolin or peeler, thinly slice zucchini.  If using a mandolin, cut your thick ribbons into smaller “noodles” like above.
  4. Mix cooked quinoa (should be at least at room temp or warm), a little of the sliced basil, salt, and pepper.  Put into the bottom of your bowls.
  5. In a skillet with a little grape seed oil, fill with spinach and quickly wilt, adding a little salt and pepper.  Add to one bowl, repeat for the second.
  6. Add some sliced basil and diced tomatoes to your bolognese sauce that’s simmering.  You might also add a little more tomato sauce to thicken.
  7. In the same skillet, sautee zucchini noodles BARELY, adding a little salt.  Just enough for them to soften.  Divide between bowls.
  8. Spoon bolognese sauce on the top of your bowls.  Add cheese if you want!



Zucchini Ribbons with Almond Pesto

From Smitten Kitchen cookbook

Zucchini Ribbons with Almond Pesto from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients (serves 4, I got 6 small plates out of it):

  • 1/2 cup almonds, toasted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 pounds medium zucchini, trimmed (about 4 medium, thin and longer if you can find them)


  1. Grind almonds, Parmesan, garlic and red pepper flakes in a food processor until they are finely chopped. Add the lemon juice, salt and olive oil and pulse a few times until incorporated. Pour the dressing into a large salad bowl and let it roll up and around the sides. (I only used about 1/4 of what I made and saved the rest in the fridge.)
  2. Peel the zucchini with a vegetable peeler or mandolin and place zucchini ribbons in the dressing-coated bowl. Toss the ribbons gently (your hands work best – I massaged the pesto into the zucchini) attempting to coat the zucchini as evenly as possible. Serve at room temperature quickly so the zucchini doesn’t lose it’s pretty shape!


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