Carrot and cucumber veggie noodle salad with cilantro hemp pesto

It's time to start thinking about fresh veggies and salads again. Use a madoline or a julienne peeler to make noodles out of carrots and cucumbers, and then dress them up with all kinds of toppings.

Beyond the Peel
Avoiding wheat, looking to trim down, or just trying to get more veggies in your diet? Veggie 'noodles' are a great addition to a simplified meal.

Even though it’s snowing in Canada as I write this, I still feel like spring is in the air. Probably because the sun is finally starting to rise before I do and set at a reasonable hour (not 5 p.m.). At least for me, with spring comes the unquenchable need for veggies. More Veggies! I can’t get enough. So I decided to ditch the grains and fill up on vegetable “noodles.”

Yup, veggie “noodles.” Whether you’re trying to lean down, avoid wheat for digestive issues, or simply get more veggies into your diet, veggie “noodles” are a great addition to a simplified meal.

Sure you can buy a spiralizer to make noodle shapes out of raw vegetables, but if you’ve never tried it before, you may not want to invest in a fancy gadget. After all, we don’t need to create kitchen gadget cemeteries in our kitchens. A carrot peeler is a great way of testing out the concept like we did here for Carrot Parpadelle. A mandoline  (this is the one we use) works great, too, if you have one. Or in this case, my sister picked up an inexpensive julienne peeler.

I have to say I love it. It’s a carrot peeler that easily makes julienne style cuts. Using this style of peeler makes fantastic zucchini spaghetti in seconds. I also like how cost effective they are ($5-$7) and store easily (since they are small) and clean up in a snap. If you end up loving the idea and find yourself making vegetable “noodles” on a regular basis, you can move on to fancier equipment, like the spiralizer mentioned above (which works amazingly well, by the way). I wouldn’t recommend the peeler if you were trying to feed a crowd, but for small jobs or a meal for 2, they are perfect. For bigger crowds, the spiralizer or mandoline is a better choice.

Of course, you don’t need any of those to make this recipe. You can simply chop or slice the veggies for an equally delicious and healthy meal.

Vegetable noodles are common in vegan and raw diets, but you don’t need to be vegan or following a raw diet to enjoy the benefits of this technique. When I get to my post in the fire-watching cabin, this will be a typical meal served with no meat or with the addition of a grilled portobello mushroom. Here we served the carrot and cucumber noodles with grilled deer. You may not have access to wild game, so serve it with chicken, beef, pork or omit the the meat entirely for a satisfying gluten free vegan meal.

I used lime in this pesto, simply for a different flavor profile, but lemon would work, too.

Cilantro hemp pesto (dairy free)

1 cup of lightly packed cilantro leaves and stems

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons hemp seeds

juice of 1/2 a lime (or lemon)

1 garlic clove minced

salt and pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until the cilantro is finely minced but not puréed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Leftovers: Leftovers make a delicious sandwich spread. Add to burgers, a grilled cheese or use it as a topping for a burst of flavor on tomato soup.

Carrot and cucumber noodle salad
Serves 2

2 carrots

1/4 English cucumber, seeds removed (zucchini works well, too)

1 cup cilantro leaves

3 cups spinach leaves

juice of 1/2 orange

juice of 1/2 lime

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon agave, honey, maple or sweetener of your choice

Salt and pepper

Remove the seeds of the cucumber by scraping with a spoon (skip this step if using a zucchini). Using a julienne peeler, spiralizer or mandoline, make “noodles” out of the carrots and cucumber. In a large bowl add the carrots and cucumber along with the cilantro and spinach. In a small bowl, blend the orange juice, lime juice, oil and agave. Season with salt and pepper. Toss the vegetables with some of the dressing. Top with the cilantro hemp pesto.

Additional topping: Grilled meat or fish, grilled portobello mushrooms or oven roasted eggplant.

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