This year, I potted six basil plants. I'm hoping at least one or two survive Montana's volatile weather. We had a few below-freezing nights in June. When I was at the market mid-month, a couple of my favorite farmers had green garlic, and only green garlic, on their stand.
Most of their early season plants died with the summer frost. Though I grow food for recreation, I, too, felt betrayed by the cold spell. A couple of my basil plants withered into sad, brown things. And yet this is Montana. It can literally snow anytime of year.
Fresh basil is thus a luxury. I've always had a soft spot for pesto, and I think it's partly because basil doesn't dominate our local food scene. For Montanans, basil can be like the summer itself: a shy, elusive creature, showing up for a few days and returning a week later, damp with snowmelt.
Zucchini, on the other hand, tends to grow without hesitation. One summer I found a zucchini beneath the vine leaves that had reached the length and girth of a six-month-old. Realizing one can make noodles from this plant proved to be a life hack on par with cauliflower rice. I've since discovered the Titan julienne peeler works best for creating zuc noods the width and length of spaghetti. (I don't collaborate with Titan; this opinion is my own.)
The recipe below offers a vegan alternative to pesto. Instead of parmesan, I used nutritional yeast. I can eat cheese, and sometimes I'll make the same recipe with parm. But I like to use nutritional yeast because, as an athlete, I welcome extra B-vitamins into my diet when I can get them. (B vitamins = energy.) Nutritional yeast is also a complete protein and is thought to help the immune system. (A serious bonus this time of year, as my body is in overtime attacking make-believe pathogens known as pollen. Maybe you can relate?)
Between the zucchini and basil, this meal tastes fresh and sits light in the stomach. I like to eat it for lunch if I know I'm gonna be running or climbing in the early afternoon. Otherwise I'll pair it with some meat for dinner, or even warm some up and serve it with a couple fried eggs for breakfast. The recipe I offer includes sautéed leeks, mushrooms, and pak choi, but--as always--feel free to add any different or additional vegetable, cheese, or meat you think would taste good.
The real star here, all in all, is the pesto. 'Cause basil, plain and simple.
Zuchinni Noodles with Pesto
What You'll Need
For the Pesto:
3 oz (about 3 C, loosely packed) Fresh basil
1/2 C Olive Oil
1/4 C Sunflower Seeds
2 T Nutritional Yeast
4 Garlic cloves, chopped a little
Juice of one lemon, seeds removed
1 t Salt
1/2 t Pepper
For the Noodles:
2 Medium to large sized zucchinis
A leek or two
Tomatoes, sprouts, and chevre
What You'll Do
1. Place all ingredients in a blender and let 'er rip.
No, really, it's that easy.
For Zuc Noods:
1. Peel zucchinis with preferred noodling tool. (Again, I use the Titan juilenne peeler.)
2. Chop up mushrooms, leeks, and pak choi.
A note on chopping leeks: start at white base and move up the green stalk. As you go, the layers may start to peel. I just let them, setting the peels to the side. You'll probably come across some dirt. I don't mind a little dirt--surely there's some health benefits, right?--but you can just wash it off as you go if the texture bothers you.
3. Sautée these veggies on low heat in olive oil. I leave the zuc noods cold and add the warmed up veggies to the noodles. This was there's a little heat thrown into the raw goodness.
4. Add sautéed vegetables to the noodles alongside the tomatoes and chevre in a large bowl. (I leave the sprouts off for a garnish at the end. I ended up transferring the dish to a larger bowl than I thought I needed at first, so I recommend just starting big.)
Dish up and eat up! Veggie power for your summer pursuits.