Easy Everyday: Zucchini with Almond Basil Pesto

July 18, 2012

Zucchini with Almond Basil Pesto
Photo by Joseph De Leo; styled by Mariya Yufest

You've had it fried, grilled, sautéed, and baked, but you probably haven't sat down to enjoy a big bowl of raw zucchini. But zucchini "pasta" tossed with uncooked marinaras, vinaigrettes, and pestos is all the rage in the raw food world. With minimal effort, the humble squash can be turned into flexible, twirlable ribbons for dishes, like this one, that sit (comfortably) on the fence between salad and vegetarian main.

You'll be surprised by how filling this dish is, and we have the almond butter in the pesto largely to thank for that, which cleverly steps in for the more perishable and traditional pine nuts. Yet, because of the inclusion of almond butter, olive oil, and cheese, this recipe isn't strictly raw, so consider it more of a gateway meal into the raw food lifestyle than a devotional one.

To prepare the zucchini, use a vegetable peeler or mandoline to slice thin ribbons lengthwise, and then salt the zucchini to soften it and draw out excess moisture. This extra step primes the zucchini, turning it into a sponge for the infusion of pesto to follow, and transforms the wobbly, just-peeled strips into playfully pliable ribbons. Just don't forget to rinse and dry the ribbons thoroughly after salting -- the point of the salt here is to tenderize, not (over)season.

Zucchini with Almond Basil Pesto by inpatskitchen

Serves 1

For the almond basil pesto:

1/4 cup almond butter
1 to 2 cloves garlic
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2/3 cups extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

For the salad:

1 small zucchini, about 8 inches long
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon of the almond basil pesto
2 tablespoons very finely diced red onion
5 or 6 Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings
Salt and pepper for seasoning if desired

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

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Wine Pairings:

This is a riff on a classic dish from the Carnic Alps in Northern Italy. Stick to wines around the Carnic mountain range for the best pairings. Friulano, Pinot Grigio, and Pinot Bianco would all be good choices. If you like something a little more lively and acidic, go for Sauvignon Blanc. Two of the best places on earth for Sauvignon Blanc are the regions of Alto Adige and Friuli.

Top Picks

St. Michael-Eppan Pinot Bianco 2007, Alto Adige, Italy
2009 Cantina Terlano Sauvignon Blanc, Alto Adige, Italy

Jake Rosenbarger

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How do you like to dress your raw zucchini salads? What other vegetables do you serve in this way? Share your cooking tips and serving suggestions in the comments section below.

Like this post? See the Easy Everyday topic from last week: Sun-Dried Tomato and Salami Couscous Salad.

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