Recently we are getting more and more into the meatless Monday craze. It’s a tough day of the week for us, like most…and we find we can save a lot of time with just a bunch of veggies on a Monday night. It can also save us prepping time during the week and chop up a bunch of stuff while dinner is in the works Monday for the rest of the week. Like magic, my one weekday dinner rolls into the rest of the week and it is a huge bonus to have everything ready to go! I TRY to plan out my grocery lists and menus for the week so they all make sense together. For example, we are making zucchini balls with pesto tonight, therefore, I can make extra pesto for pasta, tossing with shrimp, adding to a soup, mixing with veggies and roasting, the ideas can go on forever for the rest of the week. It does not have to be one and done dinner.
This is S.I.M.P.L.E
1/2 cup to 1 cup bread crumbs
Chopped fresh basil
1 Garlic Clove
1/2 cup parmesan or nutritional yeast
Salt and Pepper
1. Chop off the ends of your zucchini (feed to your dog if yours is anything like mine, it’s her fave food!) Grate the zucchini on a cheese grater and place into a clean kitchen towel lined mixing bowl.
2. Squeeze out as much excess water from the zucchini as you can. Change out the towel, and wring it out again. You won’t believe how much water those suckers hold. The dryer the zucchini is, the browner and crispier your “meatballs” will be. Salt the shredded dried zucchini and let sit while you prepare the next step. (The salt will help dry out the zucchini a little more)
3. Heat a large drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. In the meantime, crack an egg into a medium to large size mixing bowl and scramble. Add the bread crumbs, minced garlic, basil, and parm. Gently mix. Add the grated zucchini and toss together so the ingredients are well blended. Add some more breadcrumbs if you feel that the mixture is too moist.
4. Make your balls. I just use an ice cream scoop so they are all uniformed and place on a plate or fresh cutting board.
5. Add the balls to the hot pan, and brown all over. Lower the temperature if the pan is too hot or smoking. You don’t want to burn the zucchini balls. This should be about 2 mins per side and that is IT! You could also bake these guys at 350 for about 20-30 mins as well if you did not want to fry them in the oil.
These are great on their own but you could also add your favorite jar of sauce to the pan and let simmer until hot and serve over pasta. I also like these balls over an arugula salad with my favorite dressing. Tonight they are being served as is on top of pesto with some cherry tomatoes. YUM.
Pesto can also be frozen which is extremely helpful when I am in a time crunch or out of ideas for a meal. I prefer to spoon it into an ice tray and just pop them out as I need. The cubes are a great addition of flavor and defrost in no time. I love pesto because it is SO versatile. The basic pesto recipe is basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese. I like to use whatever greens I have in the fridge that need to be used up. We are a big fan of arugula and spinach in lieu of the basil. It makes for a more peppery flavor versus sweet from the basil and quite honestly, most the time my basil plant is dead. I also try to really cut down the oil used in pesto because it is not always something my husband is eating. I use filtered water and lemon juice until I get the consistency I want, the taste is more bright and not as heavy with the olive oil, it’s a great substitution. That being said, if you’re not into dairy, you can omit the parm and use Nutritional Yeast, it’s a great product that taste nutty and gets the job done just as well as parmesan cheese.
There are lots of ways you can change up your pesto as well. Be daring, be bold, add what flavors make you, YOU. The options are endless.
- Add fresh herbs and different spices for an added kick
- Use sundried tomatoes
- Substitute pine nuts for walnuts, pistachios, almonds, etc.
- Add capers for a salty element
- Mix your greens and basil up
- Don’t waste veggies, use the stems and tops from celery, carrots, turnip greens, etc.
- Try flavored olive oils, I love this for pesto on pizza 🙂
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