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April 26, 2017

Veggie Noodles are Here to Stay

By Piet E. Jones

Culinary trends are constantly on the move. Some pop big with lots of buzz and perhaps a bit overuse, like sous vide, before settling into becoming a somewhat commonplace technique used effectively for some dishes.Zoodles Others, like foams, devolve into culinary punchlines. 

Spiralized vegetables, or zoodles, looks like it might be on track to have some staying power. Typically made from zucchini, hence the Z, zoodles have crossed the boundary from restaurant to home kitchens cementing their popularity. Part of that is driven by the gluten free and reduced carb trends; the rest is that they are both tasty and versatile.

Any Pasta Dish Can Have Their Noodles Replaced with Zoodles.

Blanching in salted boiling water or a quick steam are common preparation methods, just be careful not to overcook lest the zucchini become limp and mushy. You can even skip precooking, just slip the zoodles into a sauté pan with the sauce and heat while tossing. A simple basil red sauce, maybe with some sliced hot Italian sausage, then finished with a little fresh shaved Parmesan is really all you need but nearly any sauce/protein combination can work. You could even list on your menu not as a separate dish but as a healthy option to your normal pasta dishes.

There is no need, however, to limit zoodles to pasta style dishes. They make great salads and slaws as well. The freshest zucchini zoodles can be served raw, although you can really dial up the color and taste with a quick blanch followed by an ice bath. Tossed with mayonnaise or dressings, they perform well as a bright and crunchy side dish or as a topping on, say, a pulled pork sandwich - either a tradition slaw dressing of mayonnaise and sour cream or with a simple, sweetened vinegar dressing.

You could even bind the zoodles together with flour and egg to make a pretty amazing latke. The flour kind of defeats the purpose of low carb and gluten free so you could sub it out for either almond (make sure you have an allergy warning) or coconut flour, just keep in mind those have very different flavor profiles so you might want to experiment with flour blends and maybe even some fresh herbs and spices to achieve your desired result. Dress the plate with the traditional accoutrements like sour cream and applesauce for the best fusion of nostalgic and contemporary.

Zoodles are Perfect for Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner

Lunch and dinner also shouldn’t be the only time to consider zoodles. Potato heavy skillets and bowls are very popular these days for breakfast, zoodles are a healthy alternative to all that starch. Soften onions and peppers in a cast iron skillet with a little olive oil, toss with zoodles and crispy, chopped bacon then top with a couple of poached eggs and shredded Gruyère. Voila, a great high protein/low carb way to start any day.

Zucchini is also not the only vegetable you can use. Drop the first letter from zoodle to match your veggie and you’re good to go. Coodles when you use carrots. For parsnips you’ve got poodles. OK, no one wants to put poodles on their menu… Besides, zoodles is fast becoming a more generic term that can apply to more than just spiralized zucchini, best to just stick to that and modify it with the name of the vegetable used.

Get Creative with Your Veggies

The point is, most any firm or hard vegetable will do. Some, like carrots, you can serve raw and lightly dressed. Others, like sweet potato, require cooking. You also need to be aware of how the vegetable changes when heat is applied. Some will fragment into shorter pieces with too much while others, like sweet potato, turn to mush if overcooked. In nearly all the cases, fast cooking is good, from frats blanching to deep frying. Slower methods tend to break the zoodles into increasingly smaller pieces lowering the visual appeal.

Zoodles can also help reduce waste and lower food costs. Already offering fresh broccoli on your menu? What do you do with the large center stalk? Try peeling it then run it through your spiralizer. A quick blanch and what you used to throw away is suddenly ready for the table in a slaw or side.

So, there you have it, a well-established cooking trend that is endlessly versatile and adaptable. Zoodles can help you appeal to today’s tastes and cater to those with gluten issues or trying to reduce their carbs. Plus you might be able to reduce waste and lower food costs in the process. Everybody wins!