From the garden: basil pesto!

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Well, with all this heat my second round of basil has exploded. I just harvested five big ol’ bushes, which means I’ve got basil coming out my ears. This much basil can only mean the sweet deliciousness of pesto, baby! Woohoo!

I love pesto, but even I cannot eat quite this much of it. It’s time to freeze pesto, my friends. This recipe for vegan pesto has become a household favorite, even with my very picky pesto-loving Mister.

Pesto is so stinking easy to make and even easier to freeze for future use, it’s silly not to. Here’s my vegan take on the traditional pesto. And if you don’t like this just as much as the original, I’ll eat my Giants cap!

Along with olive oil and fresh basil …

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… you’ll also need pine nuts, walnuts (optional), fresh garlic and nutritional/brewer’s yeast (this will be your “Parmesan”), plus salt and pepper to taste.

First up: toast the nuts. I like a mix of 2/3 pine nuts to 1/3 walnuts, but by all means, use 100% pine nuts or go 50/50 or use a different mix of nuts altogether if that makes you tingly. Personally, I think pesto needs the flavoring of pine nuts, but opinions differ. It’s a free world. Go nuts! (Ha! Get it? Go nuts? Heh. Ha. Okay, never mind.) Moving on.

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Throw your toasted nuts in a food processor (or blender) and add whole garlic cloves …

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… and then basil. I grow two types of basil: purple and Sweet Genova green, but due to pungent flavor of the purple I keep the ratio 3/4 green to 1/4 purple basil. Again, adjust according to your own tastes.

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Blend/Chop until you have a fine mince.

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Then add your “Parmesan”: nutritional yeast. If you have never used nutritional yeast before this might be a nice introduction. I find mine in the bulk bin section of my local grocery in the area where they sell flour and oats. It has a nice salty flavor (like Parmesan) and depending on the brand can sometimes be quite nutty. I like nutty versus salty. So, if buying from the bulk bin, it’s always worth tasting the goods before you buy. (Let’s be hygienic about it—put a pinch in your palm and then taste.)

It’s an extremely versatile ingredient and in addition it’s VERY healthy for you. Some people swear that they never catch colds because they drink a teaspoon of nutritional yeast in water every day. That’s a little more than I want to do, but I’m happy to add it my cuisine whenever I can. In this case, its perfect.

Phew. That was a long way of saying … “dump in the nutritional yeast now.”

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And then start pulsing while SLOWLY drizzling olive oil (DO NOT just dump all the oil in at once) into the mixture until you reach a smooth paste. Because I’m freezing all this pesto I used a tad less oil than I would if eating it fresh. This provides a denser mixture for freezing and lets me add some olive oil to the mix later in order to freshen up the pesto when I finally decide to use it.

Finally, add salt and pepper to taste. Hint: don’t be afraid to be generous with the salt. I’m telling you, I could eat spoonfuls of this stuff, it’s so delicious. Yum, spread on warm bread … swirled on warm pasta … oh, brother. It’s good!

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Spoon the mixture into ice cube trays and drizzle a little olive oil layer over the top to help retard oxidation.

From here you can freeze the cubes, pop them out once frozen and store them altogether in a ziplock bag in the freezer, or you can just wrap the whole stinkin’ tray in plastic wrap and tuck it in a ziplock. That’s my preference. I find it easier and tidier. Sometimes my pesto cubes would freeze together and make a bit of a muck. When that happens my OCD gets annoyed so I just wrap the whole tray.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do! P.S. I also make this recipe with arugula and it’s equally scrumptious.

Vegan Pesto
adapted from AllRecipes.com

1/2 cup nuts (70% pine nuts, 30% walnuts)
5-6 cloves fresh garlic
1/3c nutritional yeast
2/3c olive oil (I prefer regular vs. extra virgin because it has more flavor)
1-1/2 to 2c basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste

1. Toast nuts on a dry skillet over medium heat for 5-8 minutes.

2. Place toasted nuts, garlic and basil in food processor and pulse 1 minute until finely minced.

3. Add nutritional yeast and pulse while drizzling olive oil into mixture for 2-3 minutes.

4. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pulse for thorough mix.

5. Eat up! Or spoon into ice cube trays for easy freezing.

Enjoy!

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