I have a major weakness for anything marinated, especially vegetables and beans or lentils, probably because of where I grew up. Though Russian cuisine is known for straightforward foods like meat, potatoes, and mayonnaise-heavy salads, I come from a special pocket in the southwest of Russia, where the foods of many cultures intersect. We have culinary influence from Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Karachay-Cherkessia – all Southern nations that are known for their use of spices and herbs that make their food much brighter than traditional Russian fare. The region is also known for delicious, marinated foods, which I grew up eating lots of – marinated eggplant, peppers, mushrooms, green beans and so on. You name it, and chances are that they marinate it. That might be why I’m so excited to share this light, summery, fennel-marinated zucchini and mung bean dish. It’s comfort food to me, and I think you’ll really like it as well :)
What brings this whole dish together is the lemony fennel marinade. I usually reach for cumin when putting together marinades for vegetables, but I had the epiphany to use fennel here, and I’m so happy I did. It has the perfect, bright and summery anise flavor, which is also quite unique. Another amazing thing about fennel is that it’s a digestion aid. In parts of India, fennel seeds are chewed after a meal precisely for that purpose, and also as a breath freshener. So cool!
The preparation here is quite low maintenance, and we’ve got a video up top to show the whole process. The zucchini is not cooked, just ribboned and marinated, which makes it softer, but with a pleasant, crisp bite. It’s served over marinated mung beans (I mixed in some lentils as well), with lots of herbs, microgreens and avocado. This dish can serve as an excellent, summery side or an addition to salads, but honestly, I’ve been eating it as a light meal most of the time. It’s nourishing and filling enough because of the inclusion of fiber and protein-rich mung beans and lentils. Both mung beans and lentils fall under the nutritious category of pulses, together with all other beans, chickpeas and dried peas, which might just be the most affordable superfoods out there.
This year, we are working with USA Pulses and Pulse Canada on creating some simple, weekday-friendly pulse recipes, as part of their Half-Cup Habit program. Making a habit of incorporating at least 1/2 cup of cooked pulses in your cooking a few days a week always leads to some sustainable, nourishing and affordable meals. For more recipes, check out our Red Lentil Gazpacho, White Bean ‘Tuna’ Sandwich, Smoky Chickpea Croutons, Perfect Pressure Cooker Beans, or any recipes on the Pulses website.
- 1 cup mung beans or French lentils, or a combination of both - soaked in purified water overnight
- sea salt
- 4 small zucchini - sliced into thin ribbons lengthwise, preferably on a mandolin
- ⅓ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- ½ tablespoon fennel seeds - toasted and freshly ground
- 1 garlic clove - minced
- pinch of red pepper flakes
- about 1 cup minced fresh herbs, such as dill, mint, parsley, basil, cilantro
- freshly ground black pepper
- avocado - for serving (optional)
- microgreens - for garnish (optional)
- Drain and rinse the mung beans/lentils and place them in a medium soup pot. Cover with plenty of water, bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 7 minutes. Taste for doneness and cook longer if needed, until fully cooked, but not mushy. Add salt at the end. Drain, transfer to a medium bowl or shallow dish and set aside. If cooking both mung beans and lentils, cook them separately, as they have different cooking times.
- Place the ribboned zucchini in a colander and generously sprinkle with salt. Let soften and release excess liquid for up to 30 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, fennel seeds, garlic and red pepper flakes, mix until well combined. Add half of the marinade, half of the herbs, salt and pepper to the dish with the cooked mung beans/lentils and stir to coat.
- Rinse the zucchini, pat it dry with paper towels, and transfer to a medium shallow dish. Add the remaining marinade, herbs, salt and pepper to the zucchini, and toss to coat. Roll the zucchini slices and put them into the dish with the mung beans/lentils. Drizzle any remaining marinade over top. Alternatively, you can simply combine the beans, zucchini, all of the marinade, herbs, salt and pepper in a dish or bowl, and toss to coat thoroughly, skipping the rolling of the slices (that step is just for looks).
- Cover the dish and let marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours or days - the longer, the better. Serve garnished with avocado and microgreens, if using.