I’m not someone most would consider a healthy eater. At the last restaurant where I worked, I was known as The Person Who Ate the Most, Male or Female. Among family I’m known for going for second helpings, while amongst friends I am known as the person who bakes when she’s sad, bakes when she’s happy, and bakes when she’s supposed to be writing her thesis.
Enter these zucchini and vegetable “noodles.” Pinterest tells me that this is a “thing,” especially for people on low-carb diets or trying to eat healthier. Personally it never appealed to me until I tried making zucchini “spaghetti” once years ago. It involved cutting long julienned strips of zucchini, which were salted and drained to reduce their water for a more crisp texture. I covered it in 101 Cookbooks’ zesty 5-minute tomato sauce and it was great for a hot day. I’m lazy though and don’t own a mandoline, so I haven’t made it since. Also real-deal spaghetti is so delicious, I could never give it up.
This week in Montreal, temperatures have been hitting the high 30s and I had some zucchini sitting around, so I thought, why not give the recipe a reprisal? And wow, was it good. So good that I didn’t miss real pasta (though nothing can replace your place in my heart Pasta, don’t worry). I don’t usually replace one thing for another just for the sake of being “healthier,” but I see these vegetable ribbons as being delicious and interesting to eat in their own right, not just stand-ins for something else. Plus they don’t require any special kitchen gadgets and come together in 30 minutes flat.
I skipped the draining step to no noticeable detriment, and used a regular vegetable peeler to get long ribbons of zucchini. I think part of the trick is to avoid getting too many of the seeds in the heart of the zucchini, which is filled with water. I had some carrots looking all lonely in the fridge, so I also peeled those into ribbons, and sauteed it all with garlic scapes, pea shoots, and corn kernels cut from the cob – basically whatever was in the fridge. The base of zucchini ribbons is so versatile that it’s a great way to throw together a quick dinner with whatever caught your eye at the market.
It also looks much more impressive than it is to make! It’s the perfect fancy-looking kind of thing to make for company. In fact, I’m already dreaming up other possibilities for this… maybe a smaller portion, atop crisp cornmeal cakes and topped with grilled shrimp? Tossed with pesto, or maybe pureed roasted red peppers? If you have any ideas I’d love to hear from you too.
Vegetable ribbon pasta
Serving size: 2 (but you could easily double or triple this recipe)
Prep time: 20 min.
Cook time: 10 min.
- 2 medium zucchini, the firmer the better (also feel free to use different colours)
- 1 medium carrot
- 2-3 garlic scapes
- a handful of pea shoots
- kernels cut from 1 corn on the cob (alternatively: ¼ c. canned corn kernels)
- fresh herbs of your choice (I used parsley and lemon thyme)
Trim the ends of the zucchini and carrot. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zucchini into ribbons lengthwise, rotating to an unpeeled part every few ribbons so as to minimize getting the seeds. A few seeds are fine, but the middle of the zucchini can be too soft for this recipe. Save the middles for another meal. Using the same technique, peel the carrot. Since carrots are quite firm, you can peel all the way to the core.
Roughly chop the garlic scapes. Cut the kernels from the cob, if using corn on the cob.
Separate the thicker stems of the pea shoots from the tender leaves, as they can take longer to cook than the leaves. Slice the stems very thinly.
Heat your preferred oil or a pat of butter in a non-stick pan. Brown the corn kernels, then add the garlic scapes to lightly brown. Add the vegetable ribbons and pea shoot stems and sauté until they start to brown too. Finally, add the pea shoot leaves and sauté until just wilted.
Garnish with your choice of fresh herbs, salt and pepper, and a few chili flakes if you’d like.
If you’re using parsley, don’t throw away those stems! They are completely edible, taste just a little less strong, and I chop them up finely to garnish around the plate. Less waste and looks great.