Saturday, October 08, 2011

vegan mofo :: 21 pesto ideas and universal pesto recipe

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.

Pesto Uses
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 
Universal Pesto
  • 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
  1. I must state the obvious, since it's a classic: basil and pine nuts.
  2. Sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, and a bit of lemon zest [A traditional recipe appears in my first cookbook, The Urban Vegan]
  3. Rosemary and walnuts. Wonderful over pasta topped with nutritional yeast, but a little goes a very long way.
  4. Winter pesto: spinach, walnuts/pine nuts [A traditional recipe appears in my first cookbook, The Urban Vegan]
  5. Sage, smoked paprika and toasted almonds. Again, a little goes a very long way.
  6. Sofrito pesto: Cilantro, parsley, green pepper, hot pepper flakes, lime zest and almonds.
  7. Pesto Mexicano: Grilled poblano peppers, walnuts and a dash of hot sauce. Great in enchiladas or as a topping.
  8. Mint pesto: peppermint, lemon zest, and pine nuts. Great add-in or sauce for couscous dishes.
  9. Polish: Dill, white pepper. walnuts
  10. Arugula, pine nut/walnut combination, lemon zest.
  11. Quasi-tapenade: Olives, walnuts, lemon zest and hot pepper flakes.
  12. Edamame pesto: Cooked edamame, cashews, ginger, and a splash of soy sauce.
  13. Peas-sto [Groan]: Cooked peas, walnut/pinenut combo
  14. Red pepper pesto: roasted red peppers, walnuts, orange or lemon zest. Wonderful over pasta.
  15. Tempeh pesto: basil, steamed crumbled tempeh, pistachios
  16. Vietnamese: Ginger, basil, soy sauce, splash of rice vinegar
  17. Asparagus pesto, recipe idea from Mark Bittman
  18. Sate pesto: Red curry paste, basil and creamy peanut butter. Skip olive oil.
  19. Pumpkin: Pureed, unsweetened pumpkin, walnuts, pinch of nutmeg. Great with risotto.
  20. Fennel: Fennel fronds, almonds, lemon zest. A lovely, subtle licorice flavor,
  21. 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.


Marcella Marsella said...

Great post! People need to be encouraged to play with classic recipes such as pesto, especially because it's so simple to make. I recently blogged about making pesto from every kind of green in my garden, and I'm hooked on coming up with variations. My favorite: kale, sunflower seed and double garlic pesto. I can't wait to try your smoked paprika and sage version. Yum! said...

What a great post! You've helped my come up with a way to use all of the rosemary I have lurking in my fridge.

Fanny said...

Wonderful! Definitely bookmarked for future use, I especially like the idea of Sate pesto: Red curry paste, basil and creamy peanut butter. Skip olive oil.

emmathackerfatcore said...

I always end up with leftover herbs going off so this post is perfect. Its the sate pesto that's caught my eye too, sounds great!

T said...

Love this post! I've never thought of pesto as so flexible! And using sage, or walnuts... can't wait to try!

B.A.D. said...

I really love these flexible dish posts! So many ideas and variations.

Millie said...

I love pesto...yummy.


Geeta said...

Tried the walnut and rosemary pesto idea for the first time the other night - it absolutely fantastic! Definitely a winder

snarkyvegan said...

Oh whew! You didn't discover my SECRET pesto recipe ;-P