Summer is winding down. Already I’m feeling blue! I’m a summer girl, so it’s hard for me to say farewell to the warm weather – SUNSHINE (vitamin D!) – abundant summer fruits and vegetables – and herbs. One of my cold-weather coping mechanisms is to batch and freeze pesto at the end of summer… for a burst of warm weather memories in the dark of winter. Gosh, is this depressing or what? Let’s move on to the food – and quick!
Since we were talking about fresh herbs all month with the Vegan Mainstream cookbook club, I thought I’d share this new Spinach Herb Pistachio Pesto recipe. It’s actually from LTEV, but new to those of you that don’t yet have LTEV… or maybe flipped past the recipe (we all do it)!
This pesto is a special because it includes some ingredients that you might never think to add to pesto. Like parsley. And spinach. And pistachios! For a very long time I was devout to basil in pesto. Basil and only basil. Yet basil isn’t plentiful most of the year. You may find it year-round, but in small amounts. And I love my pesto, people! So this recipe combines just a little basil, enough to imbue its peppery-anise essence, with other greens that are more abundant during basil “off-season”.
Before I get to the recipe, let’s quickly talk about freezing. I am asked about freezing recipes all the time. Almost every day! I freeze a lot of things in portions, like hummus, muffins, cocoa cookie dough balls, snackles, hummus, more hummus. #hummusisafoodgroup ;) And pesto.
When I make pesto, I at least double the batch. Sometimes triple it (my food processor is a 16-cup). Then, I portion out about 1 to 2 cup batches and freeze. Yes, it tastes a little better freshly-made. But, when October rolls around and it is dark and dreary, pulling out a container of hummus is like a quick burst of summer in your kitchen. Totally worth it! So, freeze some up, and then just thaw in the fridge overnight to use the next day. You can thank me later.
For this pesto, I thought I’d show you something different than its usual pasta-counterpart. I love using pesto in many more ways than tossed through cooked pasta. For instance:
- It’s stellar as a pizza base. Top with juicy sliced summer tomatoes, a few olives, and black pepper… outstanding!
- As a spread for sandwiches. I pack hubby’s lunches everyday, and in the summer this is such a quick sandwich fix. Add some sliced red peppers, tomatoes, or leftover grilled veggies… done!
- In green wraps. I need to do a collard wrap post, because I LOVE lunch collard wraps. So versatile, easy, nutritious. Smear some pesto love on that collard leaf, and your wrap will sing!
- Baked Spuds and Sweet Spuds: Instead of adding a vegan margarine to your spuds, try a dollop of pesto. This is especially good on sweet potatoes with the contrast of the salty, punchy pesto against the creamy sweet potato. Just amazing. Try it.
- Bean and Grain Salads. You have plain brown rice. Or quinoa. Or plain white beans. How to jazz them up? Thin out a little pesto with some water and/or lemon juice, and work into salads with beans and veg, or grain and veg – or both. Satisfying, a meal in a bowl.
See? Many ways you can use pesto. And here’s another: cucumber rolls!
This idea comes from my friend Tess Masters (aka The Blender Girl). We’ve been ‘twitter friends’ for a little while and I met her in person at VVC. A couple of months ago we joined a twitter chat and she mentioned cucumber pesto rolls. So, I had to try them! Brilliant! Here was my experimentation with making the rolls:
Using a peeler, the cucumber ribbons were a little too thin and did not peel evenly through the length. I got very thin slices, but not consistent…
With a sharp knife, I could slice evenly through the full cuke length. The slices were thicker, and only the thinnest slices worked well for rolls. But, they did work well…
I popped a few toothpicks in the rolls and they were ready to serve! If you make these, do not make them ahead of time. You can slice the cucumber in strips ahead, but don’t roll until ready to serve. The salt and acid from the pesto will draw moisture from the cucumber – so keep them fresh and make when ready to eat! Afterwards, I thought I probably could have used my food processor, because it has ninja assortment of blades. Are there any raw gadgets that would also do this job well?
Other fresh and raw ideas for using pesto include stuffing mini-bell peppers, rolling in lettuce leaves, scooping into endive leaves, tossing into zucchini noodles, or simply working the pesto through a chopped salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, spinach – whatever you like!
Spinach Herb Pistachio Pesto soy-free, gluten-free, oil-free option
1 cup raw pistachios (not salted)
2 tbsp pine nuts (optional, can use more pistachios)
1 – 2 medium-large cloves garlic, quartered (see note)
1 ½ – 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (optional, helps keep pesto fresh, but can omit for oil-free)
1/2 tsp sea salt (see note)
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 – 3 tbsp water (or more as desired, see note)
3 ½ cups (loosely packed) baby spinach leaves
¾ – 1 cup (loosely packed) fresh basil leaves
¼ cup (packed) flat-leaf parsley leaves
crushed pistachios for serving
In a food processor, combine the nuts, garlic, 11⁄2 tablespoons of the lemon juice, olive oil (if using) salt, pepper to taste, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the water, and the spinach, basil, and parsley. Puree until fairly smooth, less for a chunkier consistency or longer for a smoother one. Add and blend in additional water if you need to, for the consistency you desire. At this point, you may refrigerate the pesto in a covered container until ready to use it.
Pasta Note: If you are serving this immediately with pasta, set the pesto aside and cook the pasta (using about 3/4 – 1 lb dry pasta) according to the package directions. Just before draining the pasta, remove and reserve about 1⁄2 cup of its cooking water. Drain the pasta (don’t rinse it!) and toss with the pesto, using as much or as little pesto as you like. If the pasta is a little dry, add more pesto plus a tablespoon at a time of the reserved cooking water. Season to taste with additional salt, black pepper, and fresh lemon juice, as desired. Serve garnished with a sprinkle of crushed pistachios.
Adult-Minded: I typically use one clove of garlic, because when the pesto is warmed by the pasta rather than cooked, the garlic maintains a raw taste. If you like a stronger garlic flavor, by all means, add another clove!
Seasoning Note: You may want to add more salt to this pesto after tossing with the pasta. The seasoning depends very much on how you use this pesto, and also how much of it you use! For instance, if you like just a light coating of pesto with your pasta, you may find the seasoning a touch bland, and in that case you can add a touch more salt to your pasta, to taste. If you like a thick, generous coating of pesto on those noodles (as I do!), then adding extra salt will be just too much. Also, if you like using pesto as a spread for breads or vegetables, this amount of salt is just right.
Have you ever made pesto cucumber rolls? Do you freeze pesto? What ways do you enjoy pesto the most?