|Rosemary pesto over brown rice fusili|
Modular recipes are empowering. They not only teach you how to cook, as opposed to blindly following recipes, but they also give you the courage and impetus to ad-lib in the kitchen. Not surprisingly, most of us equate pesto with traditional basil-and-pine-nut variety. But remove the rules [which you have to understand before breaking], and infinitesimal pesto variations suddenly appear. In the spirit of improvisation, I give you this modular pesto recipe, as well as 21 ideas to get you started on your personal pesto journey.
The most popular and obvious pesto use is as a pasta sauce, but pesto also makes an unusual sandwich condiment and a soup topper. A dollop of pesto adds a certain je ne sais quoi and surprise layer of complexity to many entrees. Think, traditional pesto in ratatouille or sun-dried tomato pesto in risotto. But wait, there's more: Pestos also make excellent, flavor-dense salad dressing bases and marinades for tofu, tempeh, seitan and veggies.
|Pre-pesto CSA rosemary|
- Up to 1/2 cup best-quality olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced plus
- 2 cups of fresh herbs, dried fruits or fresh (or cooked) vegetables
- 1/4 cup nuts
- Nutritional yeast, to taste
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Makes a scant 2 cups
Process everything in a food processor until smooth [or smooth-ish, depending on the items you use]. You can easily double or triple the recipe. Freeze leftover pesto in ice cube trays or small containers.
21 Pesto Ideas
- I must state the obvious, since it's a classic: basil and pine nuts.
- Sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, and a bit of lemon zest [A traditional recipe appears in my first cookbook, The Urban Vegan]
- Rosemary and walnuts. Wonderful over pasta topped with nutritional yeast, but a little goes a very long way.
- Winter pesto: spinach, walnuts/pine nuts [A traditional recipe appears in my first cookbook, The Urban Vegan]
- Sage, smoked paprika and toasted almonds. Again, a little goes a very long way.
- Sofrito pesto: Cilantro, parsley, green pepper, hot pepper flakes, lime zest and almonds.
- Pesto Mexicano: Grilled poblano peppers, walnuts and a dash of hot sauce. Great in enchiladas or as a topping.
- Mint pesto: peppermint, lemon zest, and pine nuts. Great add-in or sauce for couscous dishes.
- Polish: Dill, white pepper. walnuts
- Arugula, pine nut/walnut combination, lemon zest.
- Quasi-tapenade: Olives, walnuts, lemon zest and hot pepper flakes.
- Edamame pesto: Cooked edamame, cashews, ginger, and a splash of soy sauce.
- Peas-sto [Groan]: Cooked peas, walnut/pinenut combo
- Red pepper pesto: roasted red peppers, walnuts, orange or lemon zest. Wonderful over pasta.
- Tempeh pesto: basil, steamed crumbled tempeh, pistachios
- Vietnamese: Ginger, basil, soy sauce, splash of rice vinegar
- Asparagus pesto, recipe idea from Mark Bittman
- Sate pesto: Red curry paste, basil and creamy peanut butter. Skip olive oil.
- Pumpkin: Pureed, unsweetened pumpkin, walnuts, pinch of nutmeg. Great with risotto.
- Fennel: Fennel fronds, almonds, lemon zest. A lovely, subtle licorice flavor,
- Nutella-inspired pesto: Skip the garlic, salt, pepper and nooch. Use melted dark chocolate chips, hazlenuts, and just a bit of canola oil, if needed. Obviously, this is a dessert sauce, but try it over pasta if you feel so compelled.