Healthy, No Oil, Pesto

Pesto is a herb paste and can be used alone, like as a dip, or added to a recipe as a flavor enhancer, like a condiment or in sauces. I even add pesto to my tuna salad sandwiches so I can decrease the amount of mayo I use, and it brings such a light and flavorful taste to it. Pesto is packed with fresh herbs and parmesan cheese – even nuts if you like. Sounds healthy, right? Except there is also oil in it. It can make some recipe a bit oily and runny. This pesto recipe is healthy because there is no oil, but has all the fresh herbs and cheese, with a couple of twists.

The twists I use are replacing the fatty oil with roasted green peppers and the zest and juice from a lemon or a lime. The peppers give a fatty yet smooth texture to the pesto, with no fat! And a lemon or lime will not only brighten up the pesto with the citrus, it also provides the liquid to blend it all together. And instead of nuts I use a half of a shallot, minced.

To roast the peppers, cut off four sides off of each, leaving the top, center with seeds, and bottom attached. (Hint: save the unused portions of the peppers for free homemade stock). Place them on a tinfoil lined baking sheet, skin side up. Place the oven shelf as high as it will go and set the oven to broil. Spray the pepper skins with cooking spray and put them in the oven for 5-8 minutes. The skins will burn, which is exactly what you’re looking for. Take the baking sheet out of the oven and cover the entire sheet with loose or tented tinfoil. The carry-over heat will steam the peppers and loosen the skin while they are cooling. When the peppers are cool, the skin will feel like tissue paper. Rub the skin off, which is very easy, with a dry paper towel or clean dish rag. Discard the skins, roughly cut up the pepper flesh and place them in a food processer or blender.

If you grow your own herbs, rinse them and lay them on a paper towel or dish cloth to dry. I used the herbs from my garden: basil, oregano, and chives. Once dry, rip off the leaves of the herbs (or break apart soft herbs like chives that have no stems) and place them in the food processor. Add the lemon or lime zest and juice. Cut up 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese from a block of cheese (or you can use reduced fat graded parmesan cheese). And add a few cloves of chopped garlic and a 1/2 chopped/minced shallot. I usually do not add salt or pepper because the parmesan cheese is salty, so if you do add salt, only add a pinch. (Hint: save the herb stems, shallot skin, and garlic skin for free homemade stock).

You can also make this pesto yours. Add what you have on-hand. Maybe you have extra fresh spinach or blanched kale, or a variety of nuts. You can also switch up the cheese with another kind of hard or semi-hard cheese. Let me know if you make this – enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 2 green peppers
  • Zest and juice from a lemon or lime
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped
  • 1/2 shallot chopped/minced
  • 1/2 cup cubed parmesan cheese (or grated cheese)
  • Bundle of fresh herbs (basil, oregano, chives)

Equipment:

  • Baking tray
  • Tin foil
  • Food processor or blender

Prep time 5 minutes
Bake time 5-8 minutes


Directions:

  1. Cut four sides off of each pepper, leaving the top, center with seeds, and bottom attached.
  2. Save the unused portions of the peppers (see helpful hit at the bottom)
  3. Place the peppers on a tinfoil lined baking sheet, skin side up.
  4. Place the oven shelf as high as it will go and set the oven to broil.
  5. Spray the pepper skins with cooking spray.
  6. Broil the peppers in the oven for 5-8 minutes until the skins are burnt.
  7. Take the baking sheet out of the oven and cover with loose or tented tinfoil until cool.
  8. Rub the skin off of the peppers with a dry paper towel or clean dish rag.
  9. Discard the skins.
  10. Roughly cut up the pepper flesh and place them in a food processer or blender.
  11. Add the leaves of your herbs to the food processor: basil, oregano, and chives.
  12. Save the herb stems (see helpful hint at the bottom)
  13. Then add the lemon or lime zest and juice.
  14. Add 1/2 of a chopped/minced shallot
  15. Cut into blocks 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese (or you can use reduced fat graded parmesan cheese).
  16. And add a few cloves of garlic.
  17. Optional: pinch of salt and pepper.
  18. Optional: 1/2 cup of soft greens like spinach or blanched kale
  19. Optional: 1/4 cup of nuts
  20. Blend until smooth
  21. If using later or you have extra, place the pesto in a container and put it in the fridge

HELPFUL HINT:

(Hint: save the unused portions of the peppers, herb stems, and skins from the shallot and garlic for free homemade stock).

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