Paleo Zucchini “Noodle” Salad with Tahini-Ginger Dressing
Why This Recipe Works
With their bold, Asian-inspired flavors and bountiful crisp-tender vegetables, cool noodle salads make perfect vegetarian lunches or dinners. But coming up with a paleo-friendly version presents an obvious challenge: Traditional Asian noodles are made from rice, wheat, or other nonpaleo ingredients. Although we considered making paleo noodles from almond, coconut, or tapioca flour, we decided instead to keep the recipe simple by using spiralized vegetables. We tested a wide range of vegetables to find which one provided the best texture and worked with the other ingredients in the recipe. Cucumber noodles contained too much liquid and made the sauce watery. Noodles made from sweet potatoes were dry and brittle. Zucchini noodles were the clear winner: The squash was easy to work with and produced long, satisfying noodles with a pleasant, neutral flavor. Next, we shifted our focus to how the noodles would be treated. We first tried boiling them, but they absorbed extra water that leached out into our finished entrée. Stir-frying the noodles proved no better. In the end, we found that leaving the zucchini noodles raw gave us a texture closer to that of real noodles; plus, tasters enjoyed their delicate flavor. To bulk up the salad, we added red bell pepper, shredded carrot, and sautéed broccoli. Since many noodle salad dressings rely on peanut butter as their base, we decided to replace it with paleo-friendly tahini, a nutty, buttery paste made from ground sesame seeds. Coconut aminos and other Asian-inspired ingredients like ginger, rice vinegar, and garlic rounded out the flavor of the dressing.