Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Manchego + Marcona Almonds

Last week, I spent a glorious few days in Calgary, visiting my boyfriend who is there on a temporary assignment.  It proved a much-needed reprieve from the Houston heat (and floods) and we spent lots of time hiking, exploring, and eating (duh).

One of my favorite dishes was at a restaurant called Ox and Angela, which served (sort of) traditional Spanish tapas and reminded me of all of the tapas consumed when I studied in Cordoba, Spain during my junior year of college.  The dish was a simple salad of zucchini, studded with Marcona almonds and garnished with shaved Manchego cheese (two of my favorite things in the world that happen to also be very Spanish). We devoured it immediately and I vowed to recreate it the second I got home.

Zucchini makes a lovely grain-free substitute for pasta, but its texture can sometimes be a little bit off-putting when served completely raw.  By marinating the zucchini in lemon juice and olive oil, it softens and gains a more “cooked” texture that is much more appetizing.  You can use a mandoline slicer to cut your zucchini ribbons, or just use a vegetable peeler and run it down the length of the zucchini until you reach the core.  My favorite mandoline is this little cheapie from Sur la Table that I use far more often than the expensive one I have with a gazillion different blades that is most certain to slice off a finger one of these days.

Once you marinate the zucchini, this salad comes together very quickly and should be eaten day of or it will get too soggy.  I imagine this would go nicely with some torn prosciutto and basil if you wanted a more Italian take!

Makes 4 servings

2 medium zucchini

Juice of 1 lemon

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1/4 cup Marcona Almonds (in the cheese or specialty section at Whole Foods)

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

2 oz raw aged Manchego cheese, thinly sliced and crumbled

3-4 sprigs fresh mint, leaves removed

pinch sea salt

Using your mandoline or vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini into long ribbons, keeping them as uniform in size as possible.  Place the ribbons in a medium bowl and add the lemon juice and olive oil.  Toss to coat and let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour, until zucchini begins to soften.  Be careful not to leave marinating too long, as the zucchini will become mushy.  Add the almonds, tomatoes, cheese crumbles and fresh mint leaves.  Sprinkle with the sea salt and serve at once.

Beet + White Bean Spread

I absolutely love the vibrant color of this dip. It makes for a fun, Valentine’s Day themed appetizer and is super simple. Plus, it brings beets to the table in a new way and rounds out their earthy flavor, making them more approachable to beet-lovers and beet-skeptics alike.  You choose the amount of beet that works for you, so if you are still on the skeptic side, start with one and add from there.  
Beets are such a rich source of antioxidants and also contain compounds that help with blood flow and circulation, making them heart healthy and a very sexy food at the same time, perfect for your Valentine’s Day meal!

Serves 4-6

1-2 medium beets, cooked and peeled
2 cups cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 Tablespoons tahini
1 clove garlic, peeled
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped
2-4 T olive oil

First, roast the beets wrapped in foil at 375 for 30 minutes or until soft.  Allow to cool, then peel with a vegetable peeler or paring knife and chop into quarters.

Place the beets in your food processor or blender along with the beans, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, sea salt and chopped thyme leaves.  Blend until smooth and incorporated, then slowly stream in the olive oil and continue to blend until a silky texture is reached.  Adjust seasonings as needed and serve with vegetable dippers or these Brown Rice + Herb Crackers.

Brown Rice + Herb Crackers


These little gluten free crackers are super versatile and surprisingly easy to make.  A combination of brown rice and almond flour are flecked with sesame seeds, fresh herbs, nutritional yeast and sea salt for a cracker that can stand alone or be eaten with virtually any dip or topping.  If you can find dulse flakes at your local grocery store, throw some of those in for some added mineral content and depth of flavor.

These crackers contain more fiber, protein and healthy fat than your typical boxed crackers and deliver way more flavor.  Plus, you can add them to your repertoire of “party tricks” to impress your friends…pretty much a win, win situation in my book.

Note: I have sage, rosemary and thyme growing in my garden at virtually all times. You can substitute the same quantity of any fresh herb you choose, OR use 1/2 the amount of dried herbs if you don’t have access to fresh!

1/2 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup almond flour
2 Tablespoons ground flax
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds 
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped finely 
1 teaspoon fresh sage, chopped finely 
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped finely 
1 teaspoon dulse flakes
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Preheat your oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

 In a large bowl, mix together all dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and mix well until incorporated. Knead by hand until you can easily shape the dough into a ball with little to no crumbling.

Shape the dough into a ball and place between two sheets of parchment paper.  Roll out to 1/8th of an inch thickness using a rolling pin…or a wine bottle, like I do.

Using a pizza slicer or sharp knife, slice into 1 inch squares.  This recipe also works well with cookie cutters for a little extra fun.

Bake for 16-18 minutes until golden brown.  Allow to cool and store in an airtight container, if they last that long!