Zoodles with avocado pesto and shrimp

Don’t get me wrong, zoodles and shrimp are great but this post is really about the avocado pesto. It should actually be renamed “magic pesto” because that is how great it is.

Last April, I made pesto for my book club and to accommodate various members’ dairy allergies, myself included, I made one batch dairy-free.

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What I mean is, I substituted nutritional yeast for Parmesan. That’s it. Now, I’m under no delusions that it’s a one-to-one swap. I’m well aware of the fact that nutritional yeast, while bearing some umami characteristics, tastes a little funky.

But apart from the flavor, what really made the dairy-free pesto sub-par was its consistency. Where the normal pesto came together, the dairy-free version was really liquidy. It was like there wasn’t anything there to bind it all together so the oil separated from the solids.

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And even though I was disappointed with the results and even though I love pesto, I actually wasn’t really looking for a new recipe…until this recipe found me.

See? It really is magic. I should have known that what my vegan pesto was lacking was avocado. After all, it’s a known substitute in the vegan world for dairy. It’s also the star ingredient behind my favorite salsa.

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What happens is that avocado acts as the binding agent that brings the other ingredients together, giving the final product some satisfying body and creaminess. The taste of the avocado is overpowered by basil and garlic so it’s really a texture play – and a great one at that.

Once you’ve made the pesto, you can stop right there and eat it off a spoon. But I can also attest to the fact that it’s great on top of zoodles. Add shrimp for an easy, healthy dinner that feels like a splurge.

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Zoodles with avocado pesto and shrimp
(Adapted from Eating Well)

Makes 4 servings

Make Ahead Tip: If you’re meal-prepping, only make the quantity of shrimp you want to eat right away. Store shrimp, zoodles and pesto separately and combine when ready to eat.

4-5 zucchini (if large, 4 will suffice, if medium go for 5)
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1 ripe avocado
1 cup packed basil leaves
1/4 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, minced
Ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled, tails removed
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

Using a spiralizer* or vegetable peeler, slice zucchini into long, thin strands. Place zoodles in a colander and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt to draw out the water. Leave in the sink to drain for 15-30 minutes, then squeeze out remaining water.

Meanwhile, combine avocado, basil, pistachios, lemon juice, garlic, remaining salt and pepper to taste, in a food processor or blender. Pulse until finely chopped. Then, with the machine still running, slowly drizzle in 1/4 cup olive oil until everything is combined and smooth.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet. Add shrimp, sprinkle with Old Bay and cook, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are cooked through, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Wipe out the skillet, then heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add zoodles and cook until slightly softened and hot, tossing occasionally, about 3 minutes. They may release extra liquid so drain that off, then add to the bowl with shrimp. Add pesto and toss to combine. Serve immediately.

*: I have this one but I’m sure there are better on the market.

 

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