Zucchini Noodles With Chickpeas, Tomatoes & Cashew Lemon Pesto

It's summer and farmers markets, grocery stores and gardens are overflowing with fresh, in-season, inexpensive summer produce! Take advantage while you can! Best of all, this recipe requires ZERO cooking, so don't you worry your pretty head about turning on that stovetop or oven and heating up your house. 

This dish features heaps of basil and a couple GINORMOUS zucchini from my garden. FREE FOOD, folks (minus the cost of water, of course.)! It doesn't get much better than that! Still no home garden? What are you waiting for!? You can grow basil in any sunny window or window box. It's cheaper than buying those little packages of fresh herbs and letting the leftovers rot in the fridge after you've used the 1 tsp the recipe you bought them for required. ;) I know this because I've done it many more times than I care to admit. 

Pesto may be one of my favorite condiments. It's absolutely loaded with bold flavors like garlic, parmesan cheese, and basil. You can also customize a basic pesto template to any variety of flavors you like! For instance, I used cashews instead of pine nuts used in traditional pesto. I like the creaminess of cashews and they're way less expensive than those pricey pignoles! I also used Chosen Foods avocado oil instead of the traditional olive oil because I love the flavor of this oil, it's made locally here in San Diego, and I just wanted to try something different! I like to treat every time I cook like a fun experiment and you should to! 

Did you know basil contains antibacterial properties, helps our bodies defend against chronic inflammation (similar to what is found with autoimmune diseases), and can decrease blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels? That's some pretty powerful stuff! If you want to read more about the nerdy science behind how basil does all these wonderful things, click here for an awesome article written by my favorite people over at Precision Nutrition.

If you've never made zucchini noodles before, don't fret. It's just like peeling a carrot. If you don't have the right tools, you may have to make a $10 investment in one of the options below, but you'll be so glad you did! The best tip I can give you is watch your fingers and slice slowly. :D

 

Zucchini Noodles With Lemon Cashew Pesto

Click here to get a printable version of the recipe! 

Servings: 4

Prep time: ~20 minutes

Ingredients:

Zucchini Noodles:

  • 1 large zucchini or 2 medium, sliced into noodles using a mandoline, julienne slicer or spiralizer.
  • 2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (or 1 can, rinsed and drained)
  • 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Pesto:

  • 1 cup raw unsalted cashews (whole or pieces)
  • 4 cups fresh basil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 10 cloves garlic (more or less depending on how garlic-y you like your pesto!)
  • 1 6 oz block of parmesan cheese cut into 1 inch chunks (or ~1 cup grated if you
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ - ¾ cup avocado oil (more if you like your pesto more wet than dry)

Directions:

  1. Remove stem ends from zucchini and slice into noodle shape using one of the tools above. Set aside in large bowl.
  2. Add all pesto ingredients except avocado oil to blender or food processor. Pulse until all ingredients are coarsely chopped and blended together.
  3. Set blender/food processor to “on” and slowly drizzle avocado oil into the mixture as it’s being blended until it reaches your desired consistency. Taste and add more oil or salt as needed.
  4. Add garbanzo beans, tomatoes and about ½ cup of pesto to zucchini noodles and mix to coat all noodles. (I find the best mixers for a dish like this are a set of nice clean hands! Spoons, tongs or forks might break up the noodles and not combine the ingredients as well as you can with your own 10 fingers.).
  5. Serve with a lean protein of your choice for a perfectly balanced, flavorful summer meal!

NOTES:

  • Pesto will brown on the surface (similar to avocados or guacamole) if not used right away. You can prepare the zucchini noodles ahead of time, but add pesto to noodle/bean/tomato mixture just before serving for best results.
  • To store leftover pesto, press plastic wrap down into the surface of the pesto to prevent oxygen from reaching it (oxygen is what causes the browning!) This will keep in the refrigerator for several days.
  • If you plan to store the pesto for use later, you can freeze it in ice cube trays or spread onto a baking sheet. Once frozen, break apart into chunks and store in ziplock freezer bag. Remove from freezer and use as needed.