Bowl + Spoon: Double-Pesto Zucchini Noodles

Shake up your summertime dinner routine with Sara Forte's new cookbook, Bowl + Spoon.
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“What I do well is what I care about most, which is produce,” Sara Forte wrote in the overview of her new book, Bowl + Spoon. Fans of her popular website, Sprouted Kitchen, can already attest that Forte is an ace with produce, and her passion and care for the ingredients she works with shine through in every vibrant recipe in Bowl + Spoon’s pages. The concept of the book is simple: It’s a collection of dishes that you eat from a bowl, with a spoon (or a fork; she’s not picky). “This book is a collection of recipes inspired by the marriage of flavor, color, texture, and wholesomeness that compose a dish —  nestled in a bowl, in particular.”

Forte’s meals keep their simple roots while boasting wonderfully elegant, balanced flavors. “I like to mix colors and textures, sweetness and spice, cooked and raw ingredients, and always a sauce,” she writes in Bowl + Spoon. “Think mostly plants, a whole grain, lean protein, a healthy fat for garnish and a simple sauce of your choice.”

When it comes to balancing a meal in a bowl, Forte’s secret sauce is often literally exactly that. “You’d think it would be the last thing, but the sauce is usually where I start,” she told Healthy Eats in an interview. “A solid sauce will make your bowl because it ties all the components to be one cohesive meal.” What else goes into a perfect one-bowl meal? “It is also important to vary color and texture,” she said. “I begin with what is in season and try to have a raw vegetable for crunch, a whole grain of some sort and garnish of cheese, nuts and / or avocado so there is a flavorful punch for the top.”

The book’s recipes offer readers a lot of variety when it comes to dishes they can try at home, each simple and practical. “I’ve found that the recipes people want are the ones I make as part of our everyday life,” Forte wrote in the book’s overview. “People are busy, time is limited, and while there are Sunday afternoons for a meal with a longer list of steps and more dishes to clean, the resounding request is practical — delicious, healthful, and practical.” Her favorite Bowl + Spoon recipes include the Double-Pesto Zucchini Noodles (recipe below for you to try at home), the Quinoa Breakfast Bowl, the Hippie Bowl (which you can see on the book’s cover) and the Key Lime Eton Mess, which is light and reminds Forte of her father. And for an enthusiastic eater who typically avoids soup, the Tortilla Soup turned out to be one of her most frequently made dishes (something she didn’t expect going into recipe development).

And when it comes to keeping weeknight dinners healthy but interesting, variety can be a hard ingredient to come by. Even Forte admits that every now and then she finds herself in a rut when it comes to new ideas. “I tend to beat a dead horse for our weekday dinners when I find something I like. I over-use roasted vegetables or a single sauce if I really like it,” she told Healthy Eats. “There are so many great resources between blogs and cookbooks and food magazines. I found it helpful to look to those to get out of a rut. If you don’t have a good dinner idea or know what goes together, look towards other people you respect to jog your ideas.”

Our advice? Look to Forte’s delicious and inspired recipes in Bowl + Spoon to shake up your dinner routine while keeping things simple. You can order your copy here.

Double-Pesto Zucchini Noodles
Serves 4

I have a tough time calling this recipe a “big bowl” because it’s so light. You’ll likely want to serve this with some garlic bread, and you could add grilled shrimp or chicken sausages if you’re looking to bulk it up for the omnivores. The lentil “meatballs” in my first book would also be perfect here. I pack in a ton of flavor by making a quick pesto and then stirring in the components of pesto to finish the dish. I suggest five zucchini, assuming yours are a hearty size. If you have ones on the smaller side, shred up six or seven, so there’s enough to go around. Unlike most recipes here, the leftovers don’t reheat well, so this is a dish you’ll want to cook and eat the same day. It is even worth trying raw if the summer days are warm and a cool noodle dish sounds better — simply skip the saute and dress the drained zucchini in pesto. The pesto may be prepared a few days in advance and any extra makes for an excellent sandwich spread or salad dressing when thinned with a little lemon juice.

5 large zucchini
Sea salt
1 large clove garlic
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups firmly packed basil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound vine-ripened tomatoes, stems attached
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, as needed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans, rinsed and drained
Freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup basil, julienned

3/4 cup shaved Parmesan Pinch of red pepper flakes Fresh lemon zest, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Using a julienne peeler, slice the zucchini into thin strips, stopping when you get to the seedy center. This can also be done with a spiral slicer, mandoline, or very carefully by hand. Lay the zucchini “noodles” on a dish towel and sprinkle them with sea salt; let them sweat for about 20 minutes, then blot and gently squeeze out the excess water with the dish towel.

Meanwhile, for the pesto, in a food processor, blend the garlic, pine nuts, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to a paste. Add the basil and blend to combine. With the motor running, add the olive oil, and then the Parmesan. Taste and adjust as needed (I like to add lots of lemon). Transfer to a jar and set aside.

Keeping stems attached, rub the tomatoes with a thin coat of oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast them on a rimmed baking sheet for 10 to 12 minutes until they just begin to collapse.

In your largest frying pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute until fragrant. Add the white beans, a hearty pinch of salt and pepper, and saute just to warm through. Add the zucchini and gently saute for 5 to 6 minutes until warmed (too long and they’ll get soggy). Gently toss them in 1/3 cup of the prepared pesto (add more to taste) and half of the pine nuts, basil, and Parmesan.

Serve each bowl with a generous garnish of the remaining pine nuts, basil, Parmesan, pinch of red pepper flakes and a fresh grate of lemon zest. Snip the tomatoes at the stem into four portions and serve alongside the noodles.

Reprinted with permission from Sprouted Kitchen Bowl + Spoon by Sara Forte, copyright ©2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.  Photography credit: Hugh Forte © 2015

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