Sometimes chefs seem like magicians. How else could they transform food into shapes and flavors that seem impossible to replicate at home? Training, yes, but let’s also not forget that just like every good magician has a few props, (a double-sided quarter here, some disappearing ink there) so does a good chef. Maybe the perfectly sliced and diced vegetables on your plate were the work of a well-trained prep cook, but it’s just as likely they were quickly cut on a nifty device called a mandoline.
Using a mandoline, almost any fruit or vegetable can be easily sliced into perfectly symmetrical shapes. A mandoline makes you look like a pro without even trying and even better than that, keeps life interesting in the kitchen. Tired of tomatoes? Try slicing them paper-thin on a mandoline and they’ll melt in your mouth. It will be like tasting tomatoes again for the first time. Already bored to death with all the zucchini coming out of your garden? Get out the mandoline. This recipe for summer squash noodles will quickly become a favorite; especially for those looking for a low carb pasta substitute.
1 summer squash per person
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
For this recipe, zucchini works better than yellow summer squash because it is less watery and has fewer seeds. If you do use yellow squash, first scrape the seeds out with a knife so the inside is smooth. You can peel the squash if you want to create the most realistic looking noodles possible. Otherwise, leave the peel on for the added color and ease of preparation.
This is an easy recipe, but to really get it right you need to plan ahead a little. First, use the thin julienne setting on a mandoline to slice the zucchini into thin strips similar to spaghetti. Next, the “noodles” need to dry out or the texture will be mushy when you sauté them. Ideally, leave them on your counter for at least 3 hours. If you want to prep the dish in the morning for dinner, wrap the noodles in paper towels and leave them in the fridge while you’re at work all day.
After the noodles lose some of their moisture, warm olive oil and garlic in a pan and sauté the noodles just a few minutes to heat and coat with oil. That’s it!
Dress up the zucchini noodles and serve just like you would pasta. Add other sautéed vegetables (red onion, tomato, mushrooms) or use pesto as a sauce. For more flavor and protein, cut a chicken breast into strips and sauté with oil and garlic. As soon as the chicken is cooked through, add the zucchini noodles and sauté for a few minutes more.
This recipe is possible even if you don’t own a mandoline (use a knife to thinly slice the zucchini) but it’s a lot easier with one. You can buy a mandoline for as little as $20, but if you’re going to use it with any regularity seriously consider investing in a more expensive model. Cheaper versions make cutting vegetables more difficult and cutting your fingers a lot more likely. If you’re prone to kitchen mishaps, a safer investment might be a spiral slicer.
Give this recipe a whirl and let us know what you think in the comment board!