Presto change-o, Pesto!Posted on June 26th, 2011 3 comments
Goodness from the food processor
I have been experimenting a lot lately with pesto. I have long loved the Italian classic sauce . It is quite yummy on noodles, potatoes, vegetables, and meat. I am not very tolerant of dairy so didn’t indulge in pesto too often. Last year a friend suggested that I try making it with miso instead of the parmesan cheese. Why not ? It has that good salty umami flavor plus it provides some probiotic fermented goodness. That led me to experiment with making other changes.
What are the basic ingredients of pesto? Let’s take them one by one and make a list of substitutes/variations.
green herb – Classic pesto is made with basil. This is a summer herb, so what can we do the rest of the year ? Here in Central coastal California, we have farmers’ markets year round so I just go and see what is available. In the fall and winter you can use arugula, parsley, spinach. In the spring comes dandelion greens, sorrel, fava greens. Summer herbs are cilantro, basil, as well as many of those other herbs continue to be available. Try some nasturtium leaves ( just a few as the taste is pretty strong, but good for you). See what else you can find that you might like. Watercress ? try it.
garlic – For a party once which had a tropical theme, I made a Hawaiian style “pesto” with ginger instead of garlic. ( The other ingredients were cilantro, macadamia nuts, olive oil, and a bit of sesame oil). I usually stick with the garlic, but experiment!
nuts- Classic ingredient is pine nuts. Lately, they are ridiculously expensive so thinking of options is good. Walnuts are so good for you, high in the good omega oils so mostly now I use those. Try other nuts for interesting flavors.
oil – Again, the classic choice is olive oil. Other oils such as hemp and flax oils can be added for more nutrition.
cheese – Now I always sub miso for the cheese. I like the dark aged kind the best but you might like the milder flavor. If you also are intolerant of dairy, please do not use soy cheeses. They are so over processed and really have no nutritional value and in fact all that processed soy may be harmful.
I don’t measure things in this recipe really. I just add things until they look or taste right. Trust your instincts.
Pesto with room for improvisation
1 cup walnuts, soaked overnight and drained
2 bunches of herbs ( my latest was a bunch of basil – I stripped the leaves off and didn’t use the big stems, and cilantro)
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 big Tablespoon of miso
1/2 – 1 cup of oil ( mostly olive plus a few Tablespoons of hemp and flax oil)
First, process the nuts in the food processor. Add the other ingredients ( you may need to add one bunch of greens at a time, process it so there is room for the next bunch, depending on how big the bowl of your processor is). Add a few Tablespoons of water if you feel it needs thinning. Taste and decide if it needs more oil, maybe some pepper or some other herb. Not salty enough ? add some more miso.
This recipe is really just a framework and is the perfect opportunity for experimenting and improvising. Please use the comment area and let me know how you like your pesto.
Hawaiian pesto, oh my! Brilliant idea. I need to hunt down some good miso.
Pesto’s a great way to use up radish greens, too! I like them with walnuts and lots of garlic. I often omit cheese because we don’t usually keep it around and pesto can be a spur of the moment thing, so I love the idea of miso since miso is a pantry staple for us. Nutritional yeast, seaweed, or ground shiitake powder would probably work for adding umami, too.
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