These instructions are based on using a mortar and pestle (mine is rather tiny and was very cheap and it works just fine) but you could absolutely hand chop this or put it in a blender or a small food processor. If you're curious about how these different methods result, Serious Eats has a really lovely article on the matter.
The addition of lemon zest comes from an Italian woman I met back in Boston named Sylvia. She had been visiting for some scientific work in the city and she swore the secret to making incredible pesto was to add a smidge of lemon zest...and so I've done just that ever since. I can't say she was wrong.
You'll make a little extra pesto than you'll need, but you can freeze any leftover in an ice cube tray - just use one you don't want to use for other purposes because it may take on the garlic flavors.
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 cups basil
1 lemon, zested
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tbsp pine nuts
6 tbsp pesto
2 small tomatoes, diced
For the grilled zucchini, slice the zucchini the long way (try to slice it into 6 slices). In a large rimmed baking sheet or a zip top bag, add the vinegar, garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Toss the zucchini into the marinade and let rest for around a half hour (or more if you'd like).
For the pesto, mash the garlic with some salt on your cutting board and the back of your knife or if you have a mortar and pestle, start it off in there. Next, add in the pine nuts and mash until a paste forms. Then add in the basil leaves (you can give them a rough chop first if you have a small mortar. Slowly add in the olive oil, mixing as you go. Then add the lemon zest. Mix together and season with salt. Add a squeeze of lemon juice if you'll use it later to keep the pesto from turning brown.
To cook the zucchini, use a grill pan (or a BBQ if you've got one) and heat it on medium-high. Once hot, lay the zucchini in single layers over the pan. Let cook until char marks form on one side. Then flip over and grill on the other side again until char marks form. Once cooked, transfer to a cutting board.
Slice the zucchini into batons and toss in the pesto mixture to coat.
Plate the zucchini and top with the diced tomatoes and extra pine nuts.
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- Julia Feld