Confession: I currently have twelve zucchinis in my fridge. No exaggeration, this is a serious zucchini emergency. Every time I open up the fridge I have a bit of a panic attack. The reason for this overflow? A combination of my CSA and my own issues with buying two zucchinis every week, not realizing how many I have. I am not sure I can eat much more of summer’s tastiest of vegetables.
I take that back. I rarely get sick of zucchini, because let’s face it, zucchini is the Cinderella of the vegetable world. You would think it was cauliflower for the massive amounts of love showered upon it. But cauliflower had its heyday. From zoodles, to “fries”, to a replacement for lasagna noodles (even though I don’t quite approve), zucchini’s popularity has exploded over the last few years. Although many of us jumped on the squash bandwagon a long time ago, I still do not entirely believe they are as appreciated as they should be.
As an example, raw zucchini is incredible. Rarely eaten raw, zucchini is the perfect dipper for your veggie dips. Or you can toss it with some garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt, it can completely change your view on this versatile savory fruit. I frequently stuff them in wraps, top crostinis, pizzas, and toss with herbs and feta. Seriously you are missing out.
Despite all of my flirtations with various preparations, my heart will always be loyal to the ever reigning queen, the zoodle. Now this post isn’t exactly a celebration of the zoodle, as this recipe uses it as a vehicle for the incredibly flavorful balsamic lemon chicken and creamy goat cheese. BUT the summery zucchini noodles are the perfect agent for this light and satisfying dish. The trick to delicious zoodles? A great spiralizer, and only flash cooking them for a few minutes. DO not salt these. Period. Use the juices from the chicken and some olive oil to season them.
Trust me, the warm chicken, goat cheese and a dash of olive oil will create enough of a light sauce for this dish. But I am going to confess one more thing: I cheated and used packaged zoodles. I know this seems utterly ridiculous and wasteful (seeing as how I just admit to having thirty pounds of squash in my fridge). But, give me a moment to justify myself.
I have food allergies, I spend several hours in the kitchen running the blog and making all of our meals (which I adore), but spending 15 minutes zoodling zucchini is just not something I like to do on photoshoot days. I do zoodle, but sometimes, I just have to cheat and grab some prepackaged zoodles. It saves me massive amounts of time and they are wonderfully dry which prevents a soggy mess. That is also why the zoodles in the photo look so nice! But, really zoodling them isn’t that difficult, I just get to pick and choose when I am lazy. And that time was for the photoshoot.
But after many, many years of making zucchini noodles, I do have some tricks and tips. If you are using a hand spiralizer, do not feel the need to go all the way down to the nub, you are more than likely going to cut yourself trying to get every inch of that squash spiralized. Chop up the nub ends and put it in something else, or pop it in a freezer bag to save for vegetable stock. Believe me and my once scratched fingers, it isn’t worth it. Like I stated before, do not salt the zoodles. Many blogs and other recipes may state to salt the “noodles” and let them sit, then dab at them with a paper towel. Do. Not. Do. This. You will be unable to get the amount of water out that you think you will get, and it will create a slimy, wet mess. Just spiralize them, lay them out on the paper towels and dry them as much as you can. Then only kiss them to a hot pan for a few minutes. This will keep them more composed and not super soggy.
I have found that the average zucchini makes about 1 cup of zoodles. So you will need at least 4 zucchinis for this recipe. Fun fact, I literally went into my kitchen to spiralize one single zucchini to make sure I had the right measurement. It is 8pm on a Tuesday. The glamorous life of food blogging.
There are full directions below, the best tips I can give you for this dish, is to really make the chicken pop by adding the lemon juice right before you take the chicken off and reduce the juice to create a sauce on the chicken. If you add acid to early into the cooking process, it can actually tense up the proteins in the chicken, making it tougher than you want it to be.
The glazed acidic, sticky chicken, plays beautifully off of creamy goat cheese, bright zucchini noodles, and pops of fresh basil. It may be October, but those farmer’s markets are still overflowing with this bounty, so hurry up and make this sunny dish before everything turns into pumpkin and spaghetti squash!
Lemon Chicken & Zucchini Noodles with Goat Cheese
Author: Allie Brendel
Use up that over abundance of summer squash and make this simple, but incredibly nourishing.
Makes: 4 servings
- 1 pound of chicken diced into 1-2 inch cubes
- 4 ounces of goat cheese
- 4 cups of zucchini noodles (about 4 medium zucchini)
- 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (about 1.5 lemons)
- 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons of minced garlic (about 4 cloves)
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt
- Extra virgin olive oil for the pan
- Fresh cracked black pepper
- Fresh basil for topping
- Use a spiralizer to create the zucchini noodles, peel the green skin, and then zoodle them. Do not salt them, just let them sit on a paper towel.
- Dice up the chicken if you already haven't, you want 1-2 inch pieces. Toss the salt and plenty of fresh cracked black pepper in the chicken and mix around.
- Heat a cast iron skillet on medium low, splash some olive oil in the pan, start cooking the chicken.
- Cook the chicken, stirring to brown on all sides, when it is close to being almost cooked through add the 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and scrape the bottoms. You are deglazing the pan, and creating a "sticky" chicken.
- Right before the chicken is done, add the lemon juice, and stir reducing for a few more minutes until the chicken is fully cooked. Cooking times will vary, depending on the size of your cubes. Begin to check them after 8 minutes or so.
- Chicken should be sticky, and glazed. Remove the chicken, set aside. Clean the pan, and toss the zucchini in the pan to saute for a couple minutes, you want them to retain their freshness and not be soggy!
- Combine noodles, goat cheese, and a portion of chicken for each individual plate or all in one bowl. You can add a little more seasoning using more salt and pepper at the end. Splash the dish with additional olive oil. Toss in basil leaves and red pepper flakes!