I read a few Donna Hay magazines on the plane back to London, and one of the recipes was for a spinach pesto, replacing basil with baby spinach. It sounded delicious so I gave it a go and the result was truly amazing!
It is so easy to make your own pesto - I use a hand blender to make mine, but if you have a food processor I imagine the job would be easier still. If you don't have either, you could make a rough pesto simply by chopping the ingredients very finely.
100g baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive (not extra virgin) oil, plus more for desired consistency
Sea salt and pepper
Toast the pine nuts carefully in a dry non stick frying pan until lightly golden brown. Allow to cool slightly.
Place spinach, pine nuts, parmesan and lemon juice in a bowl, along with two tablespoons of olive oil. Start blending with the hand blender (or food processor) and add more oil if it needs it. The original recipe called for 1/2 a cup of olive oil, but I think it needs a bit less than that. You be the judge!
Like most people trying to lose weight, I had a bit of a phobia about using oil in cooking, for a very long time! Now I don't mind so much, as I think about food in terms of flavour and quality, rather than how much bang I can get for my calories, because I know I won't overdo it. So I've recently started using olive oil again in cooking, especially in dishes such as this. If you're trying to lose weight it's probably a good idea not to use oil in cooking if you can, but using good oils such as olive in your cooking when you're trying to maintain a healthy weight is proving to be a success for me so far.
Continue to blend your pesto until it reaches your desired consistency. I like it with still a few flecks of parmesan and chunks of pine nut:
Look how lovely and green it is!! And it's so yummy!
This pesto has become a staple in my repertoire now. Originally I served it as Donna Hay suggested with baked couscous and roasted tomatoes, but now I mostly serve it with pasta. Here's a dish I made on Friday night:
- Chunks of butternut pumpkin, roasted in the oven with some olive oil and garlic (in its skin) - I took the garlic out of the skin once it was roasted and put it in with the pasta too!
- Spinach pesto (I had a basil plant that was dying, so put the remaining leaves in to the pesto as well)
- 1 finely chopped red chilli, briefly sauteed in a non-stick fry pan
- Extra baby spinach leaves
- A bit of freshly grated parmesan on top
It took about 30 minutes to do, including roasting the pumpkin. So easy!
Other things you could do with the spinach pesto:
- Use it as a spread in a sandwich
- Dollop it on top of vegetable soup
- Make spinach pesto and goats cheese parcels with filo pastry
- Spread it on a pizza base
- Stir it through rice and top with freshly made ratatouille
- Add a dollop or two to scrambled eggs, or a frittata
I'm sure you guys can think of heaps more! Let me know if you give it a go, and we'll start a spinach pesto movement :P