Pesto is one of those ingredients that sounds more fancy than it actually is. Cooking with it gives you a sort of status boost, the same way knowing about the subtle differences between fine wines can be impressive in the right company.
Before I purchased my first jar of pesto, I was intimidated by its mystique. I bought a jar on a late-night grocery shopping trip, used a tablespoon in my recipe, and left it sitting in the fridge.
I soon discovered that this unobtrusive little jar held unlimited possibilities. Smeared on a tortilla with sliced turkey, lettuce, and cheese, pesto created an instant gourmet lunch. A dollop on baked chicken breast made a regular weeknight dinner into something special. I also learned that the name pesto comes from the method of using a mortar and pestle (pesto, pestle) to crush the basil.
Besides the basil, which is really the key ingredient, pesto also includes chopped pine nuts, lots of garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese. A friend of mine recently made a vegan version with basil from his garden and pecans from the tree in his front yard.
Mixed with squash, zucchini, and large prawns, I inhaled an entire plate of it and then dipped my finger into the leftovers in the pan for a few more tidbits of pesto.
My friend put the leftover pesto in my fridge. Hopefully, he wasn’t planning on using it anytime soon, because I definitely ate it all for the lunch the next day. And I wasn’t even ashamed. It was just that good.
Vegan Basil Pecan Pesto
1 cup finely chopped basil
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 cloves garlic
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup pecans
Blend the basil, olive oil, and garlic cloves in food processor. Add the nutritional yeast, vinegar and salt; blend until basil is finely chopped. Add pecans; blend until chunky but not buttery (don’t over-blend).
Tips for Storing Pesto
-Store leftover pesto in a sealed jar in the refrigerator.
-Pour a layer of olive oil over the pesto each time you use it, to prevent browning and spoilage.
-You can freeze pesto for up to six months. Thaw for 30-35 minutes before using.