ZUCCHINI QUINOA PESTO SALAD

This is the time of year that we are overloaded with zucchini. Whether you planted it yourself or a neighbor wants to pawn off some their home grown fruit.

That’s right I called it a fruit. I was shocked to find out that technically zucchini is a fruit. So really I should be calling this month fruit of the month.  However, we culinary enthusiasts use it as vegetable.  

Zucchini are part of the curbita pepo family which originated in Meso America. However, zucchini is hugely popular in French and Italian cooking. In fact if there are no blossoms attached to the summer squash most French and Italian cooks believe it is no good. (Joy of Cooking)

Squashes are low in calories, due to the water content. However, high in fiber, vitamin B6, C and K, riboflavin, folate, and minerals potassium and manganese.

In addition to your basic zucchini there are several different types of summer squash. Below are just a couple I found at our local farmer’s market.

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  1. Zucchini
  2. Pattypan Squash: An odd looking squash with scalloped edges. These can be yellow, fresh or white. Good substitute for zucchini recipes. They are good stuffed.
  3. Zappito: We talked about this one in our last blog.  If you haven’t read it…why not?
  4. Yellow Squash: There are two different types of yellow summer squash commonly found in the supermarket. This one which basically cooks and tastes like zucchini or a Crookneck Yellow squash. Which has a curved neck, is yellow and warning can be loaded with seeds. The Crookneck squash is good for soups but does not cook the same as zucchini.

Summer squash is relatively easy to prepare. No peeling necessary unlike a winter squash. It can be stir fried, sauteed, fried, grilled, or eaten raw. The blossoms can also be eaten. They can be stuffed, sautéed, baked or added to soups.

One of the most popular uses of zucchini in recent years is zucchini noodles. 

I resisted this for a long time even though I don’t eat gluten but I have to admit that I now have a big spiralizer and zucchini noodles have become one of my favorite. I often eat them raw but other will sauté briefly in a pan with a little bit of olive oil. I don’t want to dirty another pan! 

Summer squash pairs well with basil, chicken, cilantro, dairy, onions, pine nuts, quinoa and many other. For a full list check out our summer squash info sheet below.​


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Grilling summer squash is super simple and an easy way to add some veggies to your summer dinner quick! Just slice the full length of the squash. Brush with a little olive oil and grill. You can add some seasoning or just splash with a little balsamic when done grilling. 

The nice thing about grilling is the extra water in the summer squash evaporates. This is why I prefer to grill rather than to sauté the squash. 

When sautéing you must draw out the water. There are two methods to achieve this. This is either done by salting first and letting it sit for about 20 minutes. Then blotting dry with a paper towel or boiling the fruit first whole. 

I talked about this in our last blog. Place the whole squash in salted boiling water for 10 minutes. 

Then cut into cubes. 

Heat a pan over high heat. Place in some sort of fat – olive oil, butter, ghee, coconut oil etc. and heat until bubbling.

Place the cubes of summer squash in the pan and sauté for about 5 minutes. Make sure to keep a watch on the squash since it will cook quickly and over cooking the squash can cause it to become watery. 

Now that you know a couple of simple ways to cook squash lets get the recipe.

Zucchini Quinoa Pesto Salad

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This recipe came out of the need to use up to things that have grown in abundance in my garden this year. Basil and zucchini. 

I only recently have started to like quinoa. There is no way I can just eat it as a side to my dinner as I would rice but I do find when combined with a yummy dressing and some veggies it is very tasty.

First cook the quinoa: Rinse 1/2 cup of quinoa with water. Place in a sauce pan with 1 cups of either water or stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat cover and cook until all the water is absorbed. This takes about 10-15 minutes. You can tell the quinoa is done when the germ ring is visible around the outer edge of the grain.

As the quinoa cooks either grill or sauté your zucchini. Either method will work for this recipe. If grilling slice the zucchini into cube size pieces before adding to the salad.

Next make the pesto. This pesto has  a lot of lemon to it.  I find the lemon goes well with quinoa. 

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Pesto Dressing:

2 cups Basil

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 Parmesan Cheese – grated

1/8 cup of lemon juice plus a little lemon zest

1/4 t salt

1/4 t red pepper flakes

3 cloves of garlic

Combine all the ingredients except for the olive oil in a food processor. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while the machine is running. 

* ​If you want a dairy free pesto just omit the parmesan cheese.*

Next, look for any other great veggies you have growing in your garden or found at the market. I through in some tomatoes but you could also add corn, kohlrabi, sweet bell peppers, or sautéed Swiss chard.


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Toss quinoa and the pesto together. How much pesto you use is up to you. I tend to use half of what I make and save the rest for another recipe.

​Next, add the veggies and mix lightly.

This salad will store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

​You can prepare all ingredients ahead of time but just store separately until ready to serve. 

FYI This salad goes really well with grilled chicken or shrimp.

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We are now offering a super cool info sheets to go along with each veggie of the month.  

Check it out below.

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