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Shauna James Ahern's Zucchini Noodles with Spinach Pesto, Feta, and Sunflower Seeds


[Photograph: Penny De Los Santos]

Several years ago, I bought a bag of quinoa pasta out of curiosity. I boiled and sauced it as I normally would, took a big bite, and then immediately spit it out. Not only did the pasta taste unappealingly bitter, but it had also turned to mush in the time between draining and eating. I never bought gluten-free pasta again.

So it was with trepidation that I approached the pasta chapter of Shauna James Ahern's new cookbook Gluten-Free Girl Every Day. Most of the pasta recipes in the book call for store-bought pasta. (She does include one recipe for gluten-free fresh pasta, but doesn't provide an assembled recipe using it.) While I'm sure that gluten-free pasta options have improved significantly since that fateful quinoa noodle disaster, I wasn't sure I wanted to mess up dinner with a poor grocery store choice. Instead, I turned to this recipe for zucchini "noodles."

While many may scoff at the idea of replacing carbo-goodness with healthy raw veggies, I find thinly sliced vegetables to be a fine vehicle for pasta sauce, especially one as vibrant and flavorful as Ahern's spinach pesto. It is brilliantly green from the spinach and has a robust blend of Gruyère, feta, and lemon juice: perfect for tossing with zucchini (or even some good gluten-free pasta, if you know where to find it).

Why I picked this recipe: Cheesy spinach pesto plus zucchini noodles seemed like the perfect solution to the gluten-free "pasta" dinner question.

What worked: The zucchini-pesto combination is killer; and, even better, the meal came together in no time.

What didn't: I found that I didn't need the full cup of olive oil called for. I used around 1/2 cup, and my pesto was plenty rich and creamy. Also, be aware that the zucchini will begin to wilt and let off water soon after it is dressed. Serve the noodles right away, or let the vegetables marinate and then drain off the liquid before serving.

Suggested tweaks: You could use any pesto (or any summer squash, for that matter) in this recipe. Keep in mind that you'll want the sauce to be loose and fairly creamy because you won't have any pasta cooking water to cut the sauce.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Gluten-Free Girl Every Day to give away this week.

About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American, Berkeleyside NOSH, and blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.

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