Here is my second solution to the over-abundance of zucchini we find ourselves with in the late Summer – a fresh and satisfying salad of zucchini noodles, with creamy avocado, sweet tomatoes and a zesty dairy-free pesto made of basil and macadamia nuts. Great for a Summer lunch, light dinner or pot luck picnic.
The trick to making a great dairy-free pesto is to get the balance of fat, acid and salt right. As you’re missing the umami richness of the traditional parmesan, a pesto without cheese can sometimes feel lacking. The rich butteriness of macadamia nut does the job well in this pesto, as does the generous oil and lemon qualities.
I came onto the zucchini noodle bandwagon a little late compared to other foodies. When the spiraliser turned up a few years ago into mainstream food culture as a healthy kitchen’s “must-have” gadget, I was sceptical of the uni-tasker. Could a veggie noodle could really replace pasta? Why would I want to do that? Cold and flavourless “noodles”? But I’ve worked out the trick, like all things healthy and vegetarian, is to use zucchini noodles for what they are – rather than as a replacement for something they could never be. By macerating your fresh noodles in an acidic pesto, the noodles soften a little and turn into the base for a great salad. They are not a replacement for hot cooked pasta – at least not for me anyway. It’s better to celebrate this technique for what it does for the zucchini – making it absolutely delicious in a raw salad.
Macadamia and Basil Pesto and Zucchini Noodle Salad
This dairy-free pesto is incredibly versatile and can be kept in your fridge for topping pastas, soups or adding to sandwiches. Macadamias are a good alternative for the usual pine nuts in pesto, both of which are fatty enough to hold up the pesto without the traditional use of parmesan. Feel free to substitute in pine nuts if you prefer.
Macadamia and Basil Pesto
2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, picked
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2/3 cup macadamia nuts
1 lemon, juiced
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Zucchini Noodle Salad
For the pesto: Process all the ingredients in a good food processor, vitamix (or other high speed blender) or with a stick blender, adding salt and pepper to taste. To store, transfer to a clean jar, add a thin layer of oil on top, and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.
For the salad: Using a spiraliser, julienne peeler or a food processor with grater attachment, grate the zucchinis into long noodles and place in a large bowl. Stir through the pesto to evenly coat the noodles and leave to macerate for 10 minutes.
Top with tomatoes, macadamias, avocado and extra pesto to serve.
Variation: For a South-East Asian style pesto and salad, use fresh coriander (cilantro), almonds or cashews, lemon or lime juice, and add a touch of your favourite chilli. Serve carrots, sprouts, avocado and grilled tofu with your salad instead of the above toppings.