BY ANNIE FENN M.D.
Inspired by Chinese take-out noodles, these sesame noodles have several strategic healthy ingredient swaps. The noodles are actually vegetables — zucchini, carrots, and cucumber — that you spiralize. Transforming vegetables into noodles with a spiralizer kitchen gadget is an excellent way to eat more vegetables while reducing your consumption of simple carbohydrates.
For the sauce, we use almond butter instead of peanut butter for more brain-friendly monounsaturated fats and a good dose of vitamin E. Extra virgin olive oil replaces most of the sesame oil, a highly processed oil. And ginger and turmeric add bright flavors and anti-inflammatory properties.
Don’t have a spiralizer? Look for spiralized noodles in the produce section of your grocery store. But once my Brain Health Kitchen cooking students learn how easy it is to make zoodles at home, spiralizing becomes part of their cooking routine.
Serves 4 as a main dish, 6 as a side dish
- 2 medium zucchini
- 1 cucumber
- 2 medium carrots
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ cup smooth almond butter
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari)
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoons sambal oelek chili paste
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon grated or minced ginger
- ½ teaspoon turmeric or 1 teaspoon freshly grated
- 2 teaspoons black sesame seeds, optional
- Spiralize the zucchini to create zoodles using the spaghetti blade. Place the zoodles in a colander and toss with ½ teaspoon of salt. Trim with scissors to make 6-inch zoodles. Put the colander in the sink while you prepare the rest of the recipe. (The salt will help draw out the water so the zoodles won’t be soggy.)
- Spiralize the carrots and the cucumber. Place them in a large serving bowl.
- To make the sauce, put the almond butter, extra virgin olive oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili paste, garlic, ginger, and turmeric in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Add just enough water to make a pourable sauce. Taste. Adjust for sweet, salt, and spice by adding more honey, soy sauce, or sambal oelek. If it needs to taste brighter, add a touch more vinegar.
- Just before serving, rinse the zucchini noodles under cold water and shake dry in the colander. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel in a single layer and roll up to blot dry. Or, place them in a salad spinner and spin dry. Add the zoodles to the bowl with the cucumber and carrot noodles. Pour the almond butter sauce over the noodles and toss well to coat. Sprinkle with black sesame seeds, if using. Serve immediately.
Brain Health Notes:
- Seek out almond butter without added sugar or processed oils, such as palm oil. If your supermarket offers freshly ground almond butter, that is usually the best choice.
- Vegetable noodles have more fiber than pasta, filling you up without spiking your blood sugar. Meeting your daily fiber needs, which varies between 21 and 36 grams per day depending on your gender and age, makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight and may lower your risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease.
BHK Cooking School Tips:
- Not ready to replace all your noodles with zoodles? Instead, replace half the vegetable noodles with buckwheat pasta (such as soba) cooked, rinsed and chilled.
- Serve with 2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced and draped across the top of the zoodles.
- Substitute 2 cups of shredded Napa cabbage for the carrots and cucumber for a more salad-like dish.
- Sambal oelek is an Asian spice paste found in most grocery stores, but you can substitute any hot sauce you like.
- Store spiralized vegetables in the refrigerator for several days for quick meals. Dry thoroughly to remove excess water and place in plastic bags, squeezing out all the air before sealing. Zucchini noodles will be good for 1 day. Butternut squash, carrot, parsnip, rutabaga, sweet potato and turnip noodles will last up to 4 days.
- If using fresh turmeric, a root vegetable found next to ginger in the grocery store, freeze before grating. The turmeric juice will be less likely to splatter and stain when you grate it.
Reposted from Annie Fenn, M.D. and the Brain Health Kitchen.