Zucchini & Squash Noodles with Sweet Peppers

THIS is my new absolute favorite kitchen tool.

What is it? The Swissmar brand Julienne Blade that turns anything and everything into noodles! AND it’s only five bucks!

There are loads of recipes online that recommend the zucchini noodle as a legit spaghetti replacement. Those recipes therefore generally feature pasta sauce or other variations on the typical pasta-lover-on-a-diet theme. THAT ATTITUDE IS TOTALLY SELLING THE ZUCCHINI NOODLE SHORT. If you treat it as a pasta substitute, you’re not going to be as happy an eater than  as if you use the julienne peeler to help you get to know the zucchini better, to find out to coax out its best flavor with the help of the right ingredients.

Zucchini noodles are sharper than flour-pasta, their taste has a bit of a edge. Squash noodles have a softer taste, that, when stewed in olive oil and garlic becomes mild and somewhat sweet. The combination of zucchini and squash in this dish is a perfect pair, and the subtly of this savory dish is brought out with the topping of the slowly caramelized peppers.

Zucchini & Squash Noodles with Sweet Peppers

2-3 zucchini
2 summer squash
1 white onion
1 red bell pepper, seeded and halved lengthwise
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and halved lengthwise
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and halved lengthwise
Parmesan, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
powdered garlic
balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
PAM

Preheat your oven to broil. Cover a baking sheet with foil, and lay out your bell pepper halves, insides facing up. Drizzle with olive oil and a little balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle on some powdered garlic. S & P. When the oven is hot enough, roast your peppers until soft and browning, about 6-8 minutes. It could take less or more time, depending on the reliability of your oven, and I generally feel it’s a good idea to check in with your oven light every few minutes. Turn peppers and roast on the other side, about 4-6 minutes. Remove quickly and, using tongs or a fork, place bell peppers in a medium-sized bowl. Cover tightly with cling film, and leave to one side.

Hold the stem end of a squash or zucchini in one hand, and hold the peeler in your other. Starting at the top of the vegetable each time, drag the peeler all the way down to create noodles. If the vegetable is softer, do not bother trying to noodle-up the inner flesh that holds the seeds- you will just make a mess.

(Thanks to The Cilantropist for the pic)

If you have a mandoline, you can use it here to thinly slice the onion into translucent curves- or you can simply use your sharpest knife (always! the sharper your knife, the less you cry!) to turn the onion into thin slices.

PAM a large saucepan and put it over a medium-low heat. Add in your onions, and sauteed for a couple of minutes. Add the minced garlic, and some more PAM or a drizzle of olive oil, as needed. Stir.

When the onions are beginning to lightly brown, and the garlic becomes aromatic, add your vegetable noodles to the pan. Drizzle in 2 tbsp of olive oil, then S & P. and stir. Add in your sprigs of oregano and basil leaves (or their dried counterparts, to taste). Turn up the heat a bit; these vegetables will cook slowly but steadily, and it’s important to keep an eye on them, and to regularly stir to ensure that they do not burn. Once the veggies have become soft, turn the heat to low.

I’ve found that due to their shape, julienned (and mandolined) vegetables better soak up whatever sauce they are cooked in, to an exquisite, subtle result that I haven’t found in regular pasta-based dishes. Keep that in mind when you’re deciding how much olive oil you add. Actually, much of this dish depends on your own taste. At this stage, when the heat is turned to low, I personally like to add a lot of ground black pepper, and to stir in at least a handful of grated parmesan. You can easily add more or less cheese, or perhaps would prefer to leave out the herbs, whatever feels good. Without the peppers, the noodle part of this dish can taste rather bland, so try to experiment with how many herbs you choose to add.

Leaving the pan on low, and checking back every few minutes to stir, and more evenly cover the veg with the herbed olive oil, return to your roasted peppers. Peel back the cling film (it should have grown cloudy underneath, as the pepper continue to steam-cook in their own heat). Remove each soft pepper half at a time, and, with the aid of a small knife or fingernail, peel off the skin of each, and discard it.

PAM a small skillet, and put it over medium-low heat. Chop the skinned pepper into medium-dice and put them into the pan with a couple shredded basil leaves. You can add a little glug of olive oil here, if you’d like, but the peppers are usually still pretty oily at this point. Simmer gently for 5-10 minutes, while setting the table, and bringing your noodles pan back up to medium-high in preparation for serving. Remove the oregano sprigs before eating.

I don’t have a final picture because I halved the recipe and ate it last week, the whole lot of it, in a sort of euphoric daze brought on every forkful of peppery, cheesy, covered in sweet. It was thunder storming and too late for dinner, and I was sitting at the kitchen counter, watching the dark and the rain, eating slowly and drinking a glass of my cheap red wine, the lights flickering, and a flashlight and my camera phone both beside me, waiting, but forgotten.

The vegetables get smaller than you realize, so I’d say that this recipe serves about 2 people, realistically, for it to be considered a meal, and not a side. It is definitely a light dish.

Meal Cost:
2 zucchini- $4
2 squash- $3
1 onion- $0.20
bell peppers- $4.00
parmesan- $0.50 (I recommend you invest in a 24 oz. shaker-container of Kraft 100% Real Parmesan Cheese, which costs about $8)
garlic- $0.70
oregano & basil- garden or pantry
balsamic vinegar- pantry
olive oil- pantry
PAM- pantry
salt and pepper- pantry

Total Calories:
2 zucchini- 62
2 squash- 80
onion- 60
bell peppers- 90
parmesan- 220 for 1/2 cup
garlic- 8
balsamic vinegar- 8
olive oil- 300 for 2 1/2 tbsp

Altogether, this recipe costs about $12.50, which is a bit steep. I went by typical grocery store prices on the veg, but this meal could easily be a lot cheaper if you went to your local farmer’s market instead! Each serving is around 415 calories, depending on how much olive oil you use (keep track!).

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