Grilled Zucchini Bowls with Chickpeas and Pesto

Now is not the time for turning on the oven or storage vegetables, but I was craving my winter root veg bowls so an update to the cooking method and vegetables was in order. I love this concept though – a ton of vegetables, chickpeas for heft and texture, plus a vibrant green sauce to tie everything together. This version has the “it” vegetable of July, summer squash, and any variety works – zucchini, yellow summer squash, pattypan squash. Grilling summer squash is my favorite summer preparation, but you can pan fry or roast.

This meal is easily scale-able – in my house one can of chickpeas is two servings, so you can easily halve or up it. The pesto should make enough for 6+ servings, and you can serve it on toast with eggs, over tomatoes and burrata, or on pizza.

My full share this week was two heads of lettuce, summer squash, rainbow carrots, fresh onions, cabbage, young leeks, kale, broccoli leaves, and purple basil. I used rainbow carrots, some of the cabbage, and the purple basil in a slaw I served atop rice noodles and some grilled BBQ tofu for a summer cold noodle situation. I used grilled extra squash while I was making these bowls to use in my favorite enchiladas (forgive the low-light photo – they are great!!) that I also stuck some chopped kale and onion tops into. Salad options for alllll that lettuce include: BBQ chicken peach, tzatziki with marinated lentils, chipotle ranch. I’m thinking about cooking the broccoli leaves and tougher, outer cabbage leaves a la collards for this dish, or in collards with peanut butter (don’t knock it til you try it). Hot, humid days call for cool beverages like these herbal citrus refreshers.

Grilled Zucchini Bowls with Chickpeas and Pesto

Serves 4

  • 2 large summer squash (mine were 40 oz total)
  • 2 cups packed soft herbs, such as basil, parsley, cilantro, dill and scallions (I used 1/4 cup of each of the above except basil)
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided, plus more if needed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas
  • 3 fresh onions (or 1 large onion), thinly sliced

Heat up a grill on high. Thickly slice the summer squashes, and coat with olive oil (3-4 tablespoons), salt, and pepper. Grill for 10-15 minutes, until they are thoroughly charred an soft all the way through (the flesh turns from an opaque white to more translucent). Let the squash cool, and then chop into 1/2″ pieces.

Thinly slice the onions. Heat up a large, deep skillet on medium high and pour in 1/2 cup olive oil. Add in the onions, and cook for 7-10 minutes, until they start to brown at the edges. While the onions are cooking, drain and rinse the chickpeas. After the onions are browned add the chickpeas, plus a few pinches of salt and grinds of pepper. Cook 10-15 minutes, until the chickpeas are visibly darkened and have a nice, crispy outside.

Turn on a food processor with the S blade in and drop the garlic cloves through the opening at the top. When the garlic cloves stop bouncing around they are fully minced. Turn the food processor off and scrape down the sides with a spatula. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper, herbs, pine nuts, and lemon juice. Turn the food processor on to puree everything, then drizzle in 1/4 cup olive oil so a smooth sauce forms (more if needed). Alternatively, very finely mince the garlic, herbs, and pine nuts (or mash in a mortal and pestle), then stir in the salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil.

Build the bowls by dividing up the summer squash and chickpeas into 4 bowls then topping with a big spoonful of pesto. Serve with more pesto and olive oil for drizzling.

(Crumbled feta like I use in the winter version of this dish would be delicious on top.)

Pasta with roasted cauliflower and kale pesto

Pasta with roasted cauliflower and kale pesto - Vegetal MattersIt’s a good thing my sausage order didn’t come in this week. I planned on making this orecchiette with sausage and pesto, or maybe my eternal favorite, orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe. Without good sausage, neither seemed appealing, so instead I turned to the half a cauliflower in the fridge. Pesto still seemed like a good idea, but I used the perfectly serviceable greens already in the house (kale and parsley) in place of basil.

What resulted was the fastest dinner I’ve made all week (exactly 45 minutes). Pasta with nicely charred cauliflower and pesto that hits all the right notes of salt, grassy herbs, and richness from the pine nuts and olive oil. I keep pine nuts in my freezer for when pesto cravings strike (and to make this salad topping – so good!), and throw them straight from there into the food processor.

Pasta with roasted cauliflower and kale pesto - Vegetal MattersPasta with roasted cauliflower and kale pesto

Serves 6. Inspired by Two Red Bowls, pesto recipe adapted from The Art of Simple Food.

  • ½ a large cauliflower, or 1 whole smaller one (I used half a giant one, that clocked in at 26 oz worth after the stem was removed)
  • 1 lb pasta (I used orecchiette, because it was either that or lasagna noodles from the pantry. Another short pasta like penne, zitti, or fusilli would be great.)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 1 tablespoon parsley (or more if you want)
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon (divided)

Preheat the oven to 425F. Cut the cauliflower into small florets about the size of your pasta. Toss in 1 tablespoon olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper, and spread out on 2 baking sheets. This may seem like one extra pan to clean (and it is), but it is needed for truly crisped and not just steamed cauliflower. Roast the cauliflower for 10 minutes, and then toss it. If your pieces are very small check again after 5 minutes. Mine were about an inch long and done after 10 more minutes.

When you put the cauliflower in the over, put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

While your water is coming up to temp, make your pesto. Using a food processor start the blade running and drop in the garlic. When you stop hearing it bounce around it will be fully chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the salt, kale, parsley, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese. Pulse until they are uniformly combined, then run the machine and stream in the olive oil. Taste and adjust if needed.

When your water boils add the pasta and cook according to the directions for your particular shape (or, set the timer for 7 minutes and taste every minute after for done-ness). Before draining the pasta reserve a small cup-full of the water. Drain, then return the pasta to the pot. Add in the roasted cauliflower, pesto, and two tablespoons of the cooking water. Stir to combine, and if it seems a little dry add another tablespoon of water.

Serve with a bit of extra parm grated on top and a sprinkle of parsley.