Happy New Year, y’all!
I’m here today to offer you a terribly unseasonable recipe. My thinking is perhaps some of you are in need of a bit of respite from holiday eating, but perhaps you’re not quite ready to plunge face-first into a kale salad. I’m with you.
We’ve spent three glorious weeks on Kauai, and accordingly our holidays have consisted of substantially more acai bowls than eggnog. Our rented condo had a well-equipped kitchen, so we’ve happily been taking full advantage of Kauai’s many farmer’s markets and cooking most of our own meals (also: dining out with a highly-mobile 10-month old isn’t as relaxing as one might think). That’s not to say there hasn’t been indulgence – there certainly has. Far be it from me to resist an afternoon beer whilst on vacation. And thanks to the availability of saltine crackers, which are impossible to find in Sweden, I whipped up a long-coveted batch of Christmas Crack, which absolutely lived up to the hype.
And now here we are, the start of a new year. Time to repent our culinary sins, start fresh, detox, and eat nothing but raw, organic, vegan, macrobiotic green things for all of 2017. You know I think that’s utter nonsense, right?
Can I tell you a secret? I think that zucchini noodles are a sham as well.
I know, I know. I’m presenting you with a recipe for just that, but bear with me while I explain how zucchini noodles represent all that is wrong with the world.
Some time ago I dutifully went out and bought myself a spiralizer, because it seemed like I could hardly maintain any credibility as a vegetarian nutritionist food blogger without one. So I ordered the thing online and waited for it to arrive, all the while picturing myself serenely sitting down to bowl after bowl of zucchini noodles with a variety of maximally-healthy toppings. Well. It came, I spiralized, and whomp whomp whooooomp. Turns out that a bowl of cold zucchini noodles is not the same as a bowl of warm, soul-satisfying, stick-to-yer-ribs god-honest pasta.
But here’s the thing: people are pretending that it is! But it’s really (really really really) not! Those people are lying to you – and frankly, a lot of them are probably lying to themselves. And this is where I get to the part about zucchini noodles ruining the world: we’ve come to a place so phobic of actual good food that we’re pretending that spiralized zucchini is the same as pasta in order for our food to be “good” or “clean” or whatever adage is currently being thrown around to categorize what we should and shouldn’t eat. We’ve come to a place where the line between healthy eating and disordered eating is so substantially blurred that it’s difficult for even a trained eye to tell the difference sometimes. Enough already!
Don’t get me wrong, a spiralizer is a fun kitchen tool and spiralizing is a great way to get more veggies into your diet in unique ways. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. And, as is evidenced by the recipe I’m sharing today, I do believe there is a time and a place for zucchini “noodles.” But let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? And for the love of all things true and good, if you’re craving a big old bowl of gloriously carby pasta, please just have one. If you feel that your pasta (or whatever) consumption is out of control, well, let’s talk. But if your stomach, mouth, and mind are all genuinely asking you for the real deal then don’t you have an obligation to listen?
Here’s what I love about this recipe: it’s warm, it’s fast, and, thanks to the halloumi, it’s totally satisfying. Personally, I tend to eat my heavier meals earlier in the day, when I’m busy and bustling and am in need of more energy. I gravitate towards lighter evening meals, especially since we have an early curfew in my house so I’m often heading to bed not long after I eat dinner.
This is something I frequently make when I’m home alone; a single lady supper that I can get on the table as quickly as a salad, but when I’m more in the mood for something warm. There’s a good dose of veggies in there – a whole zucchini and half a pint of cherry tomatoes per serving – and cubes of pan-fried halloumi which is what elevates this dish from just a bowl of veg to a proper meal. If you have difficulty finding halloumi where you live, I’m very sorry. Apparently outside of its origins in Cyprus, Sweden is the world’s most prolific consumer of halloumi, and with good reason – the stuff is dang tasty and versatile AF. But, I know it can be harder to track down, and expensive, in other places. I’ve made vegan versions of this dish, both with chickpeas and with tofu in place of the halloumi, and while each are fine in their own right, halloumi is where my heart is.
Halloumi is a semi-firm unripened brined cheese from Cyprus made from a mixture of goat, and sheep, and cows milk. It has a high melting point so it can be pan fried or grilled and does not fall apart. If you can’t find Halloumi (check specialty food stores or Greek markets) then cubed and pan fried feta would be a good substitute.
Zucchini is a starchy summer squash that not only provides a good amount of dietary fiber (2.5 grams per cup), but it also provides polysaccharide fibers like pectin that have special benefits for blood sugar regulation. Zucchini is a very strong source of key antioxidant nutrients, including the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Since the skin of this food is particularly antioxidant-rich, it’s worth leaving the skin intact. The fat in zucchini’s edible seeds includes omega-3s (alpha-linolenic acid), making it a heart healthy choice. Zucchini is a very good source of vitamin C, magnesium, dietary fiber, phosphorus, potassium, folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin K. Additionally, it has a notable amount of vitamin B1, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron, and protein.
- 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- 100g halloumi, cubed
- ½ of a pint container of cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 medium zucchini, spiralized
- generous pinch of red pepper flakes
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the halloumi cubes to the pan, and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are just beginning to turn golden.
- Add the tomato halves to the pan, shaking to distribute everything. Cook until they are beginning to soften and break down a bit, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the spiralized zucchini and cook, stirring constantly, until they are warm and just barely soft. A sort of "al dente" is what you're looking for.
- Remove from the heat, slide the whole mess into a bowl, and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.
- Enjoy immediately!