You probably haven’t noticed this yet, but I’m not super big on “health food”.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. I actually do try to eat healthy. In fact, when you bake as many treats as I do, you don’t really have a choice. You definitely need to balance the (delicious) unhealthy stuff with something light and green every once in a while. We try to make a green juice every morning before work, we (almost) never eat fast food, very rarely eat junk food (unless we’ve made it ourselves), and try to eat only whole foods (rather than heavily processed prepared ones). That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re in great shape or anything because, again, we also eat lots of sweets and homemade treats. It also doesn’t mean that we would ever consider ourselves “health nuts” or ever say we prescribe to any fad diets or trends in nutrition.
And then this weird thing happened.
At work we started getting all of these requests for a hand-held spiral slicer, and everyone asking for it said they wanted to make “noodles” out of zucchini. We had two options for spiral slicers at the time, but both of them are a significant investment, and neither of them are even close to being hand-held. Some people would go with those options, others would choose something else we’d recommend, but most would sullenly walk out empty-handed, after begging that we bring in their requested item. I always assumed these poor souls were on some annoying fad diet that forced them to eat soggy squash “noodles” when they’d rather be eating pasta, but the number of requests we were getting in such a short period made us take notice. After a long search, we finally found one we liked and a few weeks ago we started carrying it. The one we have now is called the “Spirelli” by Gefu, and can it be found here.
Even after we brought it in, and it started selling really well, I was still a total skeptic. Then one of my co-workers bought one and started raving about it. So, I decided I should probably give it a shot.
The other night I tried it out for the first time and was shocked at how easy (and kind of fun) it was, and Russell actually requested I make zucchini “pasta” again the next night. I honestly can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s pretty great. The texture of the “noodles” is way better than I expected, not soggy at all, a bit like an al dente pasta. Since zucchini has such a neutral flavor, it absorbs the flavor of whatever else you’re cooking, and doesn’t end up tasting at all “health-food-y”.
The one problem I had the first night was that when cooked, the zucchini gave off a ton of liquid and made the sauce really runny. I had to take the “noodles” out to reduce the sauce and then add them back in at the end. The next night I decided to try salting the “noodles” beforehand to get them to give off their liquid before cooking. Worked like a charm!
Some recipes I found recommend that you peel the zucchini for a more “noodle-y” appearance, but I don’t think the skins do anything negative to the texture, and the dark green skins have a lot of nutrients that you’d lose if you peeled them. I say leave ’em!
This method is actually super quick and easy too! You just cut the end off the zucchini and push and twist it through the slicer like a giant pencil sharpener. If you don’t have this tool you could also use a mandoline slicer or another spiral slicer, or even a julienne peeler, to make zucchini “noodles”. The only time consuming step is letting the zucchini absorb the salt and release its moisture, which takes about 30 minutes, but that can be done while you prepare the rest of the dish. If you time it right and work efficiently, the whole meal including prep time can be on your plate and in your belly in well under an hour. Even with frequent pauses to photograph the whole process, it only took me about an hour.
For this dish I paired the “noodles” with seared chicken and a white wine and blistered tomato sauce. Obviously this recipe could be adapted to be as healthy, or as rich, as you like. As is, it has little more than protein, vegetables, and a little seasoning and olive oil. I can’t believe I’m pushing zucchini noodles on my blog. I never thought this day would come. But they’re so GOOD!!!
Tender “al dente” noodles, sweet blistered tomatoes, tender perfectly browned chicken, sweet garlicy wine sauce, bright fresh basil… It doesn’t get any better than that!
Zucchini 'Pasta' with Chicken, Tomatoes, & White Wine
3 Tablespoons good olive oil, divided
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
1 pint ripe grape tomatoes
3 large cloves garlic, crushed or finely minced
1/2 cup white wine
handful fresh basil leaves
Wash zucchini and use a spiral slicer (like this one), julienne slicer, or mandolin to create spaghetti style “noodles”. Place “pasta” in a mesh strainer and sprinkle with about 2 teaspoons salt. Toss well and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes. Gently squeeze out any remaining liquid and discard.
Meanwhile, heat large cast iron or stainless steel skillet over high heat. Season your chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to pan and sear chicken for 5-7 minutes on either side, or until nicely browned and cooked through. Set aside to rest.
Wash tomatoes and slice each in half, lengthwise. Add remaining olive oil to pan, add tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Cook tomatoes, stirring occasionally for 7 to 10 minutes until they are browning and starting to fall apart. Add garlic and wine, stir well, and cook down until wine is reduced by at least half, about 5 minutes.
Slice your chicken up into bite sized pieces. Arrange basil leaves in a flat pile, roll up into a “cigar” and slice into very thin strips. (this is called a chiffonade)
Add chicken and basil to pan with sauce. Add zucchini and toss to combine. I find this works best with long silicone tipped tongs. Cook until noodles are heated through, about 5 minutes.
Adjust seasoning if necessary, and top with a little fresh basil.