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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Vegan Pesto


It's weird how the prospect of not being able to have something makes you want to have it more, even if you never really wanted it in the first place. I used to always take my coffee black with sugar, way before all of this lactose-intolerance nonsense. Now I've tried almost every non-dairy creamer on the market (and I've become pretty loyal to one made from coconut milk). I find myself wanting to try a lot of dairy foods that I never really cared about when I could actually eat them.

Honestly, I never even used to care about pesto sauce. Occasionally when I was rushing to grab something from the store and get it on the table, I would just buy a package of gnocchi and a tiny jar of tomato sauce for myself, and a separate tiny jar of pesto for Keith (who isn't a big tomato fan). I would eat that jarred pesto on rare occasion, but the super-oilyness and weird taste never really appealed to me. It didn't occur to me that I could make my own pesto until after I could no longer make it with real parmesean, but despite the obvious setback, I tried it and became a born-again pesto convert. It's so ridiculously easy to make, and there's really no need for measurements. It's kind of a taste-as-you-go sauce, but they seem to be more fun anyway. You just need a collection of the following ingredients and a food processor, blender, or my equipment of choice: a cheap supermarket-bought mini food chopper.

Vegan Pesto Sauce, Non rocket-science version

A few good handfuls of fresh basil
Pine nuts, about 3 or 4 tablespoons
Vegan Parmesean flavored topping* (see note below)
2 fat cloves of garlic
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Add the pine nuts to the processor and pulse until they break down. Add a little bit of basil and a splash of olive oil and process. Continue adding basil with small amounts of oil and processing until you feel that you have a sufficient amount and the sauce is nice and green. Trust me, it is impossible to mess this up. If you're really stumped about amounts, I've been noticing that a lot of supermarkets have started selling their fresh herbs in plastic tubs, and two regular-sized tubs seem to do the trick. Add the garlic and your vegan parmesean (I added at least two heaping tablespoons, but feel free to go crazy). Season with salt and pepper.

Taste your sauce. If it is too dry, add more olive oil. If it is too nutty, add more basil. If it isn't nutty enough, add more nuts. Feel free to add as much cheese as you like, which adds to the salty-factor of the pesto. The nice thing about making pesto sauce is that it is completely open to customization, and you can perfectly cater the sauce to your own tastes. Toss with your favorite pasta. My favorite choices are spaghetti, gnocchi, or ravioli.

*On the vegan parmesean: I've only ever come across two different types of this "cheese". One comes in a green tub and is lactose free, but once again, it contains casein which is non-vegan and non-friendly to those allergic to dairy. The texture and taste of the non-vegan version is far superior when you're straight up dumping it on spaghetti, but I've used both the vegan kind and the non-vegan kind in pesto sauce and I couldn't tell the difference between the two once it was mixed in there.

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