20 May 2013

Grilled Zucchini Pesto Roll-Ups

I spend a lot of time thinking about food.  In fact, most people I live with (a-hem) would call it an unhealthy obsession.  Along with my obsession, I also have a compulsion....to think up new flavor combos, try unique spins on the classics or just make something flipping delicious.  This recipe falls into the third category.  In fact, it wasn't something I had ever planned on blogging.  Rather, it was just a throw-together-from-random-refrigerator-ingredients well-planned appetizer that I made for a get-together with some friends one evening.  Before I could set down my toothpick, the hostess made me swear to post this on my blog.  So this one goes out to the lovely hostess...salut!

I strongly feel I need to re-emphasize the category that this recipe falls into.  This is neither a new flavor combo or a twist on a classic.  Pesto and feta have been together since the dawn of Italian-kitchen time, and you can't go a day on pinterest without scrolling over a zucchini roll.  As previously stated, this is the flipping delicious category - no points for originality, folks.  The following day I proceeded to google this combo and voila, pesto and feta in rolls.  Though the cooking technique is almost identical, the pesto is what separates this post from complete plagiarism.  

I view store-bought pesto kind of like instant oatmeal packets.  Why spend the money when it's so incredibly easy to make yourself?  I make my own apple cinnamon oatmeal, and I make my own pesto.  My all-time favorite recipe is from my mom's Biggest Loser cookbook.  And let me tell you, that's some solid stuff.  It substitutes water for half of the oil, which I absolutely love.  You will never get that oily, puddly ring-around-the-edge here.  Sure, a little browning may occur, but just scrape that off and you're good to go.  (Or just stir it in and eat....yogi's choice).  

These babies are super easy to cook.  Even our hostess, a novice to zucchini cooking, firmly declared that she would be able to recreate this dish.  Just slice, grill, spread and roll.  And if you have a mandolin, your job is even easier.  I really could have just done a cook-by-pictures post here, but then I'd be left with nothing to do while the hubs is off studying in the office....so cook-by-words it is.

It's also a great way to use up the oodles of toothpicks that are rattling around in your spice cabinet.  We've had too many "generous" guests leave them for us when we hosted tapas nights.

Grilled Zucchini Pesto Roll-Ups (makes about 20 rolls, or appetizers for 6-8)

For the pesto:  
  • 2 c fresh basil
  • 1/4 c pine nuts or walnuts
  • 1/4 c fresh parmesan
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 2+ tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2+ tbs water
  • salt & pepper, to taste
For the roll-ups:
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1/3 c feta cheese (we use reduced fat)

To make the pesto, combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Blend until smooth, pushing down the sides occasionally.  Add a bit more water or oil if the mixture is not coming together properly.  Set aside.

Set a grill pan on the burner or turn on the barbecue to medium-high heat.  While the pan is heating, cut the ends off your zucchini.  Using a mandolin or a sharp knife (and a lot of care!), cut the zucchini into slices 1/8 of an inch thick.  When the grilling surface is hot, brush with olive oil.  Place the zucchini at a diagonal over the grates and cook for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, until you have grill lines.  Flip and cook for an additional 1 1/2 - 2 minutes (the second side tends to cook faster).  Remove the zucchini strips to a cutting board.  

Using a knife, spread each zucchini slice with a small amount of pesto, just enough to cover the whole length (about a half teaspoon).  Crumble the feta into small pieces and sprinkle on top of the pesto.  Roll  each zucchini into little tubes, then skewer with a toothpick to hold.  Serve immediately, or make in advance and bring to room-temp before serving.     

Save any remaining pesto in an air-tight container, covering the top with plastic wrap to reduce the browning.  You can also put a little lemon juice on top to prevent oxidization.  

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