Ever return from vacation and find yourself craving all the vegetables? Well, that’s me. After saying yes to just about every Mai Tai that came my way last week, I’m ready to hit the produce aisle hard.
It’s amazing the shift that happens the moment I cross back into my driveway. Bags aren’t even unpacked yet and I’m already craving my normal routine, gym time, and lots of fresh, clean tasting food.
To help me get back into the swing of things, I created these zucchini noodles that are so unbelievably zesty and earthy you’d have a hard time believing they are made almost entirely out of vegetables. Ribbons of freshly spiralized zucchini in a tomato-olive sauce, tossed with just the right amount of basil, oregano, capers and tangy feta cheese.
The moment people find out I’m a Registered Dietitian, they run down a quick list of must-know questions: What do you think of the Paleo diet? Should I be taking a vitamin supplement? and my favorite- What diet is best?
While I think the word diet sounds a lot like nails on a chalkboard, I love responding to this question because I think that so many of us suffer from diet overload. No matter where you look –instagram, twitter, blogs, the news– everyone is talking about the latest and greatest diet. I have two degrees in nutrition and over 10 years of experience and I still get confused sometimes. It shouldn’t have to be this difficult.
It’s also why I like to bring the conversation back to nutrients- let’s focus on what we should eat, not what we shouldn’t. In essence, it’s rather simple: whole grains, fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and lean proteins. Those are the cornerstones of my diet and what I emphasize when talking to clients as well.
Of course, we can split hairs on what we consider to be the best source of lean protein, grains, ect. but at the end of the day if most of your food fits into the above categories, you are on the right track.
The Mediterranean diet is the closest thing that I see come close to these ideals. I love that it doesn’t place much emphasis on restricting calories and instead highlights real food like vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
Olives, of course, are a staple of the Mediterranean diet- and with good reason. While we tend to think of olive oil as a great source of healthy monounsaturated fat, I prefer to cut out the middleman and head straight to the source- whole olives. They provide a healthy source of Vitamin E, iron, Vitamin A, fiber, and are naturally cholesterol-free.
While I love throwing California Ripe Olives into pasta, they are also a great on their own! My two-year old niece constantly reminds me how great olives are for snacking as she constantly is begging my sister for olives. I totally get it. When throwing together this pasta, it was almost impossible for me not to eat half the jar of olives as I sliced them! Salty goodness at it’s best.
Besides being so healthy, this pasta comes together in just 20 minutes. Another post-vacation must.
While the sauce is cooking, start spiralizing the noodles. You are welcome to use a vegetable peeler or mandoline here instead but if you like zucchini noodles and make them often, I recommend getting a spiralizer.
There’s no wrong way to enjoy these zucchini noodles so take whatever path suites you best. I love the zucchini strands slightly softened so I toss them with the hot sauce in a skillet for a few minutes. This allows the noodles to absorb more of the saucy flavor and cook down enough that they feel like al dente spaghetti. If you prefer more crunch than a chew, keep them raw.
Stir the zucchini noodles into the tomato sauce and the add the star of the show- sliced California Ripe Olives. To garnish, I overload with lots of basil and feta cheese to really bring out the Mediterranean flavors. Dairy-free? No problem, just leave out the cheese.
- 4 zucchini, spiralized
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 2 cups tomatoes, chopped
- 2 tbsp. capers
- ¼ cup sliced California Ripe Olives
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- ⅛ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
- ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- salt/pepper to taste
- ⅓ cup thinly sliced basil leaves.
- ½ cup feta (omit for dairy-free version)
- Spiralize the zucchini and place in a large bowl.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes and garlic and stir until tomatoes have softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the rest of the ingredients except for the basil and feta and cook another 5 minutes.
- Toss the sauce with the zucchini strands and stir in the feta and basil.
- Serve immediately.
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