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Grilled Zucchini, Sweet Bell Pepper and Sage Kebabs with Lemon Olive Pesto

Image of zucchini and pepper kabobs

Somewhere between a classic basil pesto and Spanish olive tapenade, this vibrant, green herbal sauce elevates almost any food it touches: eggs, shrimp kebabs, grilled fish, steamed or boiled potatoes, roasted chicken, air-fried sweet potatoes or pasta. Although reminiscent of traditional Genovese basil pesto, this uncooked sauce is more subtle in its flavor profile—a great rendition for any family with picky kids. Moreover, this Olive Lemon Pesto is not as oily or salty as classic basil pesto, making it a great choice for those who are sodium-sensitive or avoid dairy.

Made with half the usual amount of potent summer basil and sans the fresh garlic, salty parmesan and Romano cheeses, and unsalted fresh butter, the taste of Lemon Olive Pesto is more delicate— a dance between the buttery green olives, slight bitter hit from the parsley, brightness from the lemon peel and juice, and kiss of saltiness from the rinsed capers coming through as a back note on the palate. You can taste basil, but as a complementary flavor to the olives. While classic basil pesto is bold in its taste, with its heady summer basil flavor dominating, Olive Lemon Pesto makes the buttery green olives the star of the show; its subtle flavor made more complex with the addition of slightly bitter flat-leaf parsley, fresh lemon, a kiss of heat from the red pepper flakes and salt from capers.

While this is a relatively simple sauce, there is a culinary trick that pulls it all together to create great texture. Use a food processor or mortar and pestle, not a blender, to produce the requisite chunky sauce. (However, try adding a bit of water, or olive juice, to thin it out if you want to drizzle the Lemon Olive Pesto over food.)

I recommend using avocado oil spray, manufactured without propellants, to film the kebabs before grilling to prevent items from sticking to the grill grates. You can make the kebabs a day in advance; keep veggies in the fridge wrapped in foil, and film with oil right before grilling to keep the kebabs fresh. The Lemon Olive Pesto keeps for one week in the fridge covered with plastic wrap.

Grilled Zucchini, Sweet Bell Pepper and Sage Kebabs with Lemon Olive Pesto
Serves: 2

For the Lemon Olive Pesto
Makes: 1 ¼ cups
Image of ingredients
8- ounces buttery green olives, pitted ( I recommend Castelvetrano or Frescatrano olives)
½ bunch fresh basil leaves, about ½ cup
½ bunch flat-leaf Italian parsley, about ½ cup
1 heaping tablespoon organic capers, rinsed
1 lemon, juiced and zest removed in ½-inch strips with veggie peeler
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup good-quality California extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients into the food processor, except oil. Pulse several times until combined. With motor running, slowly add oil until incorporated. Do not over-process pesto; stop when the texture is still chunky. Remove and set aside.

For the Zucchini Kebabs
1 yellow medium zucchini
4 red & 4 orange Veggie Sweet Mini Peppers, stem removed and cut into quarters with seeds and ribs removed
Fine sea salt, about ½ teaspoon
Avocado oil spray (without propellant; I like Chosen Organic Avocado oil spray)
2 10-inch flat-blade metal kabab skewers

Thread the metal skewer with veggies and sage in this order till all the vegetables are used up: mini bell slice, sage leaf, zucchini slice, then repeat. Wrap the veggie/sage kebabs loosely in foil till ready to grill and place in the fridge.

Right before grilling, spray veggie kebabs with avocado spray on all sides.

Preheat your grill to 450° F. Place kebabs on grates and close grill cover and cook until veggies and sage leaves are lightly charred and summer squash is softened—about 2 to 3 minutes. Then rotate with tongs and close grill cover to lightly blister and char veggie kebabs again—about another 3 minutes. Remove from grill and set aside. Grill any protein kebabs (shrimp, chicken or meat) till done, and serve with Lemon Olive Pesto.

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