Zucchini Ribbon “Noodle” Salad with Fresh Mint

With my low carbohydrate diet, I’m always looking for vegetables that can masquerade as carbohydrates. Like… mashed squash for potatoes. Or grated cauliflower for rice. And in this recipe, zucchini ribbon “noodles” for pasta.

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This Zucchini Ribbon “Noodle” Salad with Fresh Mint is light, healthy, and tasty. With almost every color of the rainbow, it is a feast for your eyes and your tummy! The roasted red peppers add a nice smoky flavor and the mint makes it taste fresh. Plus it is super quick to prepare with a dressing made from just 2 ingredients!

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Returning to the idea of vegetables being sneaky alternatives of carbohydrates, how about first tackling a more straightforward question:

Just what makes a fruit a “fruit,” a vegetable a “vegetable,” and a grain a “grain”??

On Sunday, I had a discussion with my dad and my good friend from college (both visiting me in Chicago from the East Coast) about why wheat is considered a “grain” and not a “seed.”

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Exploring Chicago by boat on the Chicago River with my dad and my good friend from college!

Then the very next day on Monday, one of my coworkers told me that she did not like “fruits.” I asked if she ate squash (which botanically speaking is a fruit). She looked confused and said, “Yes. But squash is a vegetable… Right?”

 So how about zucchini? The star of this week’s colorful recipe!

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The answer about whether something is a fruit or a vegetable really depends on who you ask. A grocer will probably give you a different answer than a gardener.

My “Text for Junior Vegetable Sommelier Text” offers the following definition from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries:

VEGETABLE – Edible herb plants cooked at a low temperature and eaten as side dishes.

FRUIT – No particular definition, but generally things from “fruit trees.” Especially woody plants that have been cultivated for years.

Helpful…? Yeah, not really.

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Turnips… Vegetable or fruit?

From a culinary perspective, here’s a simpler way to think about it:

VEGETABLE = savory

FRUIT = sweet

In this recipe, the white wine vinegar based dressing makes it savory, so maybe we can conclude zucchini is a vegetable? But from my eyes as a botany student, I would have to say zucchini looks more like a fruit.

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Whether zucchini is a fruit or a vegetable, this salad is delicious and you will not be missing the pasta!

By quickly cooking and then cooling the zucchini, the “noodles” keep their bite, for a firm and satisfying texture like pasta. The roasted red and yellow peppers add a deep smoky flavor that is nicely balanced by the bright vinegary bite of the dressing.  And the fresh mint has a beautiful color and adds a delightful freshness amidst all the savory flavors of the salad.

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This recipe makes enough for a week’s worth of small portions for 1 person (about 10 small portions). And it easily keeps for 1 week without losing its freshness or appeal! Check out “Meal Prep- Does the food really stay fresh? I took a picture of this salad every day of the week for you to judge yourself.

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Ingredients

Zucchini, 1

Red and yellow peppers, 1 of each color

Salt, to taste

White wine vinegar, 4 tablespoons

Olive oil, 4 tablespoons

Salt, 1 teaspoon

Pepper, to taste

Mint, a bunch

  1. Cut the top from the zucchini and cut in half. Thinly slice the zucchini into ribbons. (If you have a mandolin, it would make this step quicker! Otherwise, slicing with a knife is completely fine.) Toss in olive oil.
  1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add a dash of salt. Boil the zucchini slices for 1 minute. Remove quickly and immediately chill in iced water (or under cool running water). Drain.

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  1. Remove the top and seeds of the peppers. Cut into spears. Grill under the broiler set on high, until the edges begin to brown. Cut into bite-sized pieces.
  1. Combine the vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and chopped mint. Add the peppers and zucchini ribbons. Stir to combine. Cover and store.

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Adapted from “ズッキニーとパプリカのミントマリネ” from “作り置きサラダ”.

Want to learn more about simple, Japanese-inspired weekly meal prep? Read “What is Make Now & Eat Later”

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Come back on Monday! New recipes and musings on Japan posted here every week.

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Chicago underground.
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