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In the final stretch of summer, gardens and farm stands seem to have an abundance of so many skin-healthy vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, kale and above all, zucchini. I am lucky to live in an area that is just 20 minutes from farmland, and thus have many friends who are gifting me their homegrown zucchini overflow. Regardless of your proximity to farms though, zucchinis are still very affordable at the local grocery store (due to their ability to be grown and shipped inexpensively at this time of year).
Well, having quite a few of these lovely green and yellow vegetables laying around on my kitchen counter, I’ve been hunting for creative ways to prepare them. Although perfectly delicious when steamed or grilled with a pat of butter, zucchini has a lot of undiscovered potential for a healthy main-course!
Here is a recipe that I’ve adapted from one of my favorite cookbooks “Peter Gordon’s World Kitchen”. Note: I tend to be an informal chef who is more than willing to make recipe adjustments that incorporate items I simply have ‘on hand’. When you’re really hungry, the last thing you want is to be running to the store with a long list! That being said, let the recipe below serve as a healthy base-inspiration, to which you may add or subtract items depending on your budget or ingredient-availability.
Herbed Zucchini Pasta, serves 4 as a main course.
(prep / cooking time = 25 minutes)
2 large zucchinis or squash
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (high quality, if possible)
1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 small tsp. dried oregano
1/2lb linguine or other thick pasta (fettuccine, pappardelle, etc.)
3 Tbsp. sliced almonds
Juice of 1 fresh lemon
2.5oz (1/2 cup) freshly grated Parmesan or parmigiano-reggiano
1 large pot, big enough for cooking ½ a box of linguine
1 large pan or wok
1 large mixing bowl
1) Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
2) Meanwhile, trim the ends of the zucchini and peel into long strips with a peeler. Essentially, you’re peeling the zucchini lengthwise to create thick pasta-like ribbons. I tend not to worry too much about making the pieces uniform — just get a slow peeling rhythm going, have fun with it and you’ll be done in a few minutes.
3) Add pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente according to the package instructions.
4) While the pasta is cooking: Heat a large frying pan or wok to medium heat. Add the sliced almonds and toss around for about a minute (until browned looking), and then remove them from the pan into a side dish.
5) To the same pan, add 1-2 Tbsp. of the olive oil. When hot, add the garlic and oregano; let this fry until the garlic turns a bit brown.
6) Add the zucchini and stir or toss until the ribbons wilt (should be just a few minutes, or less if you are using a very large pan that allows the zucchini to really spread out).
7) The pasta should be done by now, so drain the water, then transfer the pasta to a large mixing bowl.
8) Add the zucchini and everything else from the pan to the bowl of pasta, then toss in the almonds, lemon juice, remaining Tbsp. of oil, and the parmesan. Mix well.
9) Serve into 4 plates, optionally topping the dishes with more Parmesan, salt and/or pepper. Voila!
While making this entree, I realized that not only does it forge the near-impossible compromise of food that is ‘low carb’ and ‘filling,’ but it also provides a lot of nutrients that are important to skin health. Just one serving of this dish contains approximately 104% of vitamin C, 13% of vitamin A, 15% calcium, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 8% iron, and a bit of protein just for kicks!* Amazing, right?
Let’s look briefly at these nutrients and how they work to keep your skin supple, clear and strong.
If you’re a history or biology buff, you may have heard about British sailors developing a disease called Scurvy. This Vitamin C deficiency, resulting from months of being at sea without access to fresh vegetables and fruits (such as zucchini and lemon), caused weak skin, bleeding and vulnerability to ulcers. Through this, researchers learned that Vitamin C is key to the production of collagen, a protein that gives skin its firmness, supports the growth of new skin cells (skin cell turnover), and helps create scar tissue.
This wonderful antioxidant also slows the rate of free-radical damage. So essentially, vitamin C helps the skin repair itself from a whole range of common problems: bruises, blemishes, dryness, wrinkles, etc. New research from the University of Maryland Medical Center also suggests that vitamin C may reduce the severity of sunburns caused by long-term sun exposure. Wow, that is all a lot of great news for your skin!
Vitamin A is necessary for the maintenance and repair of skin tissue, and thus plays an important role in keeping our skin moist and fresh. If daily vitamin A consumption drops, your skin could start to look dry, flaky or dull.
Calcium helps control the rate at which our epidermis (most outer layer of skin) sheds old skin cells, and then generates new skin cells as replacements. So, if you have inadequate calcium intake, some of these necessary skin functions could slow. You could develop clogged pores, thin-looking skin or a fragile flaky outer layer of skin.
Calcium also reacts with the epidermis to produce sebum, a natural skin-coating that helps the skin retain moisture. Thus, proper calcium consumption keeps the skin supple-looking; people who are prone to dry skin, eczema or other irritation can benefit from increasing calcium in their diet.
Stay tuned to the Aidance blog for more articles with skin-healthy recipes and fun ways to use seasonal ingredients.
* Percentages are based on your recommended daily consumption, according to a 2,000 calorie diet. Percentage values of each nutrient are totaled using info from www.nutritiondata.self.com.
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