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Zucchini Pesto- Really?

By Christine O'Connor, March 18, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Christine O'Connor

I am a first-time Mom on a budget. In this ongoing blog series, I explore ways to create healthy, organic meals that appeal to both my baby and husband. I’m having fun sharing my trials and tribulations of trying to cook healthy and economically, while at the same time pleasing my family. I started out simple by turning mashed up baby foods into soups, like creating a vegetable soup out of a pea base and a carrot ginger soup from locally grown carrots. But now I am looking to step outside of my comfort zone with zucchini. My baby actually likes the taste of zucchini, but my husband is not the biggest fan. This could get interesting. When my baby turned six months of age, I started feeding him some solid foods. He really enjoyed the taste of yellow and butternut squash. In fact, he loved it! So one day I thought…what the heck, maybe he will like zucchini? I mixed up a batch of pureed zucchini and it was an instant hit. Then, I got the idea of making a zucchini pesto. Am I crazy to think that I can turn mushy zucchini into something edible? My husband was the guinea pig on this dish and it took three attempts to get the flavor and texture just right (I started with lemons and ended with limes and played around with various spices). So now, I will save you the guesswork and share my recipe. Ingredients for baby food and pesto:

  • 4 medium sized organic zucchinis
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 2 limes, squeezed
  • 1 large or 2 small jalapeños
  • 1 large handful of fresh cilantro
  • 4 or 5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil

First, wash and chop four-medium sized zucchinis into 2-inch pieces. Keep the skins on to get all of the nutrients (Vitamin A and C, calcium, iron, fiber and protein)! Boil a pot of water, drop the zucchini in, then turn down the heat to a simmer and let them soak for about 20 minutes until they are soft. (You can also steam them for the same effect). At this point, drain the vegetables and run them through the food processor or blender until pureed. Pour half of the mixture into a baby tray for your little one and leave the remaining zucchini puree in the blender (about 1 cup). Now it’s time to make the pesto. Heat up a little bit of olive oil in a pan and toast the pine nuts, jalapeño and garlic for a couple of minutes (until browned).  Add the nuts, jalapeño and garlic to your food processor or blender along with the cilantro and lime juice. My limes weren’t cooperating with me so I tossed them in the microwave for 10 seconds until they were nice and juicy. Click “blend” and in seconds you will have yourself a healthy zucchini pesto. Don’t be alarmed. The texture is somewhere in between a basil pesto and guacamole. It may look strange at first glance, but trust me – the flavor is out of this world! Now it’s dinner time and my baby is smiling away as I serve him his zucchini. It’s a very satisfying feeling as a mother to see your child enjoying vegetables. But now my pesto will face its toughest critic – my husband. I place the pesto atop whole wheat pasta, grilled chicken and diced tomatoes. Yum! My husband really likes it. The heat of the jalapeños pairs nicely with the creamy zucchini mix, turning what would normally be an Italian inspired dish into a Tex-Mex one. Now I bet you are asking yourself, how can this dish be considered economical? Well, organic zucchinis are surprisingly cheap even though they have so many nutrients. Pine nuts are pricey, so I purchased only the amount I needed for my recipe from the bulk section of my grocery store. I have a little rule that I follow when I buy a bunch of fresh spices (like parsley or cilantro, in this case) that I have to use it for three meals. I think I’ll use the remaining cilantro in a stir-fry, on top of tacos…ohhhh…maybe I’ll even make a salsa. And in the end, I had leftover pesto to freeze for a future meal. There you have it – yummy and economical! I discovered a recipe that should satisfy not just your food table, but that of any foodie. Enjoy!

 

10 Comments

Comments

Sue Swyt says ...
For more economy, Cilantro can be easily grown, too. It will thrive in a spring garden, and will reseed itself indefinitely if you let it go to seed in your garden. You'll attract garden pollinators and beneficial insects with the beautiful foamy white flowers. You can freeze the leaves for the "off season" and harvest the seeds for corriander.
03/18/2011 7:32:47 AM CDT
SusieBeeOnMaui (Eat Little, Eat Big) says ...
Very ingenious! If you want another way to use zucchini in a non-traditional way (the only way my hubby will eat it) try it in brownies made with whole wheat flour: http://eatlittleeatbig.blogspot.com/2010/11/recipe-for-double-chocolate-zucchini.html
03/18/2011 12:21:03 PM CDT
GeniuneMom says ...
I love pesto, but I just want to mention that pine nuts are in the tree nut family. All of my kids have allergies and tree nuts and peanuts can be very serious for some kids. If you feed them pesto, just watch them for signs of an allergic reaction. You can also consider talking to your doctor about it or waiting until they're a little bit older to try it.
03/23/2011 9:02:05 PM CDT
Lgm says ...
I've never cooked with jalepenos. How spicy is this as I have two young kids at home. Some spice is ok but how much heat? Substitution or half still give it enough spice?
03/24/2011 5:11:36 AM CDT
bepkom says ...
@Lgm: The appropriate amount of heat is really for you to decide......but only for the pesto (we don't suggest adding jalapeno to the puree). You can greatly reduce the heat if you remove the seeds and white membrane from the jalapenos first.
03/24/2011 9:00:15 AM CDT
charlotte says ...
I am totally going to try this recipe-it looks delish! And glad it was such a hit with the family, too :)
03/27/2011 10:07:46 AM CDT
Francie says ...
Also give Zucchini pancakes a try. They're made like traditional potato pancakes but and healthier and perfect in the summer when zucchini is abundant at farmers markets!
03/27/2011 12:07:10 PM CDT
marie says ...
This is very interesting. I would try it with extra zucchini.
03/27/2011 12:55:17 PM CDT
Marisa says ...
Zucchini makes great baby food... though I've found that defrosting it on it own it becomes very runny (probably excess water), so I like to mix it with cereal. I usually freeze zucchini and broccoli in smaller chips to defrost into other baby foods like frozen apples, pears, etc. It makes a great blend that is economical compared to the "gourmet" blended baby foods.
03/30/2011 4:20:34 PM CDT
MB says ...
Christine, I can't wait to try this recipe, and I usually never respond to blogs, etc., but KUDOS to YOU !!!!! I also am a first time mom with a 2 year old whom I ADORE, and, since she was born, I have been constantly trying to come up with creative organic dishes for both her and my husband, and going green around my house and neighborhood, and going all natural and chemical free with just about everything around my home,etc. even with my crazy schedule !!! It is so refreshing to see people like you who truly care, use creativity, and take the time to provide healthy meals for your loved ones, while also supporting the environment! I'll try this recipe soon and check back often to read up on your latest adventures ! Keep up the Great Work! God bless you and your family!
04/02/2011 5:39:26 AM CDT