I love pesto. Really, there is not much better than fresh summer basil blended with pine nuts, garlic, cheese, and tomatoes. Tomatoes?! And what about olive oil? Well, I’ve just discovered it’s not all that necessary for a delicious pesto. There is another, much less fattening way, folks. Now before you get all, “But olive oil is good fat!”, save it. Sure, it has some healthful benefits, when eaten in moderation, but in pesto, it’s no minor ingredient. Added with that loads of cheese and pine nuts, and you’re really pushing it for the health claim here. I first came across the Moosewood recipe for Low Fat Pesto years ago, when I purchased their Low Fat Favorites Cookbook. This book truly is a gem, filled with incredible flavorful and different vegetarian meals so delicious, even a husband will eat them. I’m not sure why I never got around to trying the pesto; perhaps because basil has never been so freely available as it has been to me this summer (I’ve had great basil-growing success!). I’ll admit, I was skeptical about pesto made with no olive oil, just a tablespoon of pine nuts, and no cheese. Ok, fine, I couldn’t take that it had no cheese, so I added just a bit. Not enough to make it fattening, though. Anyway, the result was pretty darn good. We used extra garlic and added a bit of lemon juice. The flavor was quite delicious. Hubby gave it thumbs up as well, and loved it just as much as the real stuff (though I admit it’s been a long time since we had real pesto over pasta… neither are a staple in our healthful household). The only problem I ran into was appearance – this pesto is not so photogenic. If the UglyFoodBlog were still around, this just might make the cut. I imagine it’s the blended tomato in there that really takes away from the bright green herb, mixing together to form a lovely… brown. But I’m not letting that deter me. This stuff is so good, I’m looking forward to working some pasta dishes back into my diet. Whole wheat pasta with low-fat pesto, peas and shrimp, anyone?
Tonight I also made Greek Zucchini Pancakes. These fritters get their flavor from garlic, pine nuts, feta, scallions, and of course, dill and oregano. I made a few substitutions – light feta, egg substitute, and Penzey’s Greek Seasoning. I also omitted all oil and simply cooked them on a skillet with nonstick cooking spray. I must say, these were bursting with fresh flavor and truly delicious. I cut the recipe in half, and with the pasta side dish, it was a perfect summer vegetarian meal for two.
Low-Fat Pesto, adapted from Moosewood Low Fat Favorites
1 cup basil leaves, tightly packed
2 large cloves of garlic
1 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1 cup diced tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 tbsp grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese
Blend all ingredients in food processor or blender until smooth. Enjoy over your favorite pasta, spread on a piece, drizzle on a baked potato, or use however else your taste buds desire