Panini with Lemon-Basil Pesto

As promised, here is one of my favorite recipes from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The Vegan Table.   The pesto is amazing and would be wonderful mixed with pasta and grilled veggies. I’ve bought a couple of basil plants to keep me in good supply for the summer. Pine nuts are expensive, so if you want, substitute walnuts or pecans.  The recipe makes 4 sandwiches.

Ingredients for Pesto:

2 cups loosely packed fresh basil  leaves
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 cup pine nuts
salt, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Ingredients for Panini:

2 medium-size roasted red bell peppers, cut lengthwise into slices (I use the jarred kind)
3 zucchini squash, sliced and roasted or grilled (I find that one zucchini is enough for 4 paninis and I pan saute them)
1 medium-size red onion, sliced
1 or 2 medium tomatoes, sliced
1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced
8 large slices Italian bread, such as ciabatta (I use Publix’s homemade Italian bread)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
olive oil, for brushing

To make the pesto, combine basil, garlic, pine nuts, and salt in a food processor or blender.  Mix until smooth.  Add oil and lemon juice; process until smooth.  If not using immediately, store tightly covered in refrigerator for up to 2 days.

To make the panini, divide the bell peppers, [zucchini] squash, onion, tomatoes, and avocado evenly among four slices of bread.  Drizzle each with [balsamic] vinegar, spread on some pesto (about 2 tablespoons) and sprinkle on salt and pepper, if desired.

Top each with remaining bread slices, lightly brush outside with a little olive oil, and press in a panini maker or place on a tabletop grill.  Press until lightly browned and hot.  You also could cook the lightly oiled sandwiches in a skillet instead of grilling them (This is what I do.  I put the panini in a skillet and place another, smaller skillet on top and press down or use a couple of canned goods to weigh it down.  Cook over medium heat for a couple of minutes until the bread is golden brown and then flip over and repeat).  Serve immediately.

359 calories each, 9 grams protein, zero cholesterol

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