Vegan Pesto

Here's the deal, as I'm doing an Elimination Diet, I have to find ways to make all of my food wholesome and healthy.  This diet eliminates all wheat, corn, sugar, dairy, eggs, red meats, caffeine, and many gluten type grains.  As a trained chef who likes to cook lighter, fresher and healthier, this is not a problem for me but rather a challenge to mix up recipes and to find new ways to make previous recipes work withing the confines of my diet's needs.

Pesto is one of those luxe type of sauces that you should always have in your spring and summer repertoire.  Simple to whip together and you can use a wide variety of herbs and spices to make this work for rice, potatoes, pasta, fish, chicken, vegetables, or beans.  It's good with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella (when I can go back to eating such things!) 

I usually whip up a vegan style pesto to have on hand when I make a batch of my basil infused olive oil each summer.  The "pesto" is the by-product of the process.  I strain off the oil and keep the pureed basil to add to soups, sauces and whatever meals need a summer spice boost.  To make a truer pesto - a paste traditionally made with basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. 

I can't have the cheese so I improvised.  You can use whatever nuts or seeds you want.  One batch I made with almonds, another with pine nuts.  I either blanch the garlic or roast it - partly to tame the bitter garlic bite as well as bring out a nuttier flavor.  Good olive oil is a must.  I like to use a combination of basil, mint and parsley.  Instead of cheese, I used dry mustard powder as the thickener/binder.

If I am making small batches, I just toss everything into my Magic Bullet Blender.  Larger batches I blanch the basil to liven up the green and keep the basil from turning grey-green.  To stretch the pesto even further and make it an even more vibrant green, you can toss in freshly washed spinach leaves - a great way to add in your iron and minerals too!

My idea is to just toss handfuls of ingredients together, taste and adjust the seasonings as you go along. There's no wrong way to do this.  Use a blender, food processor, mini-chopper, Magic Bullet, Ninja Bullet Blender or Vitamix.  

Vegan Pesto Ingredients: - Makes about 6 ounces
  • 1 Bunch Cleaned Basil Leaves - about 2 Cups lightly packed
  • 1/4 Cup Mint Leaves - cleaned
  • 1/4 Cup Parsley - cleaned and de-stemmed
  • 3 or 4 Large Garlic Cloves - Peeled and roasted or blanched (*see note below)
  • 1/4 Cup Pine Nuts - Toasted (or use roasted almonds, pistachio, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, etc)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Dry Mustard Powder - such as Coleman's
  • 1/5 Cup Olive Oil
  • Kosher or Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

  1. Clean all the herb leaves - wash and dry thoroughly.
  2. Put the herbs into your blender and pulse a few times to start pulverizing the leaves.
  3. Add in the blanched or roasted garlic cloves, pine nuts, mustard powder, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Pulse the blender again, on and off until the mixture is thoroughly blended.  If needed, stop the blender and hand-stir the mixture with a spatula, scrapping down the sides of your machine.
  4. Pulse again until the mixture is smooth and bright green.  It might be a bit thin, but not too thin that it's like green water.  If the mixture is too thick, thin it with a bit more olive oil.  If it's too thin, add in a bit more mustard powder.  Taste the mixture and adjust your seasonings.
  5. Makes about 6-8 ounces.  Put into a clean container, cover and refrigerate.  Use within 10 days.
* To blanch garlic cloves- add peeled cloves to a small saucepot of water, about enough cold water to cover it by 1 inch. Bring the water to a boil and reduce to a simmer for 3 minutes.  Garlic is done when it is knife tender.  
**Quick Roasted Garlic - Make a bigger batch by adding a whole bulb of peeled garlic clobes to a small sauce pot of olive oil, enough to cover by 1 inch.  Bring the oil to a boil then reduce down to a bare simmer.  Let the garlic cloves cook in the oil until they are roasted, golden brown and smell nutty.  The garlic cloves should be tender enough to smash or puree easily with a fork.  This takes about 20 minutes. 

I found pre-peeled and individually packed garlic cloves at Wegmans in a big bag.  Inside the bag were little packets of garlic cloves that held about a bulb or half a bulb's worth of garlic.  You can easily freeze peeled garlic cloves and use what you need when you need it later.


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