Saturday, February 14, 2015

Basil Pesto

Until recently, I thought pesto was out of my life forever.  Since going dairy free, I had sadly said goodbye to pesto and mourned the loss of its deliciousness.  Every pesto in the store and in most restaurants are full of Parmesan cheese. This is a challenge when you are trying to avoid dairy. But what took me so long to just make it myself?

While cooking for a First Descents retreat last summer, in Hood River, OR, we had pasta night and while I made the marinara, my sous chef threw together the pesto. I asked her to first make a non-dairy batch for me and for a few other non-dairy folks. It was so good that she didn't bother adding any cheese to it. After tasting it I realized I had forgotten just how much I love pesto and was impressed by how much flavor it had. In traditional pesto, the Parmesan cheese adds texture, fat and saltiness. I think if you have a good quality olive oil and freshly toasted pine nuts, they make up for the missing cheese flavor.  As soon as I got home, I immediately bought a bunch of basil and created this recipe.  

Basil Pesto

Makes 2 cups
3/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 bunches basil, about 8 oz total
1 tbsp lemon juice, about 1/2 a lemon
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, plus 2 tbsp

Place everything in the food processor, starting with just 1/2 cup of the oil and 2 tsp of the lemon juice. You might like a thicker pesto, so it is better to start with a little less liquid, you can always add more. And the flavor of citrus can vary with the age of the fruit, so start with a little less, taste and then see if you want to add more. 

Process until smooth. Taste, add more oil, lemon and/or salt to taste.  

Place in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. Basil will stay green longer if you cover the surface with plastic wrap, which limits the amount of air contact, (let the plastic wrap rest on the surface of the pesto). 

Same principle goes for avocados, it is the contact with oxygen that starts them to brown, so wrap them up good once cut.

This will keep in the fridge about a week. It still might be ok after a week, after all, there isn't any meat or dairy in it to go "bad", but the color will look less appetizing the more time that goes by. 

This recipe makes 2 cups which is a lot if you are eating alone, or just want a small amount. Go ahead of cut the recipe in half if you want to make less. You may have to stop the food processor more often to scrape down the sides as there wont be as much in the bowl of the processor and it will take a little longer to get chopped down. 

I use this pesto on everything. It shouldnt be saved just as a topping for pasta. I use it on chicken, drizzle it over vegetables, and even a dipping sauce when I make some gluten free rolls. 

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