The basil harvest is an annual marker for me. It means that the garden is winding down. There’s still a bounty of kale, tomatoes and herbs, but I’m turning toward preserving what’s left.
For some reason, basil does really well in my yard. I pretty much always have enough to make three or four batches of pesto. And that’s saying a lot, because it takes a hefty amount of basil to make a single batch.
But that’s okay. Pesto has such an intense, concentrated flavor that very little is needed in any recipe to make a lasting impression.
Pesto is very easy to make. The most time-consuming part of the process is removing the basil leaves from the stems. Once you’ve taken care of that, washing, drying and processing takes only minutes.
The following recipe is a vegan version of the traditional basil mixture. Traditional recipes use Parmesan cheese to balance the greenness and sweetness of the basil. In this recipe, mellow white miso provides the umami balance. Miso also adds probiotics to the mix.
Miso paste is very concentrated, and very salty. So I’d suggest adding it in small amounts until you find the right balance for your taste.
Finally, because a little pesto goes a long way, I freeze my pesto. The best way I’ve found to do this is to freeze the pesto in an ice cube tray overnight. Then remove the pesto cubes and store them in a freezer container. That way, you have single servings at the ready all year round.
Meatless Monday: Vegan Pesto
- 3 cups basil leaves
- 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 or more tablespoons mellow white miso
- black pepper
Remove the basil leaves from the stems. Swish the leaves around in a large bowl, then drain. Repeat this one or more times. Place the leaves in a salad spinner to dry.
Place the basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, pepper and one tablespoon of miso in a food processor.* Process until it turns into a rough paste. How long this takes will depend on whether you are using a food processor or a blender (see below). Taste for salt and add miso if you like, one teaspoon at time. Continue until you find just the right flavor balance.
*You can use a blender for this, but it’s much more time consuming. I’ve found that my Cuisinart works better than even my high-powered Vitamix for making pesto.
Here’s what I did with two servings—one for my partner and one for me—of fresh pesto last evening. I cooked some fresh, local pasta, spooned on a serving of pesto and added some halved cherry tomatoes from my garden—simple and delicious!
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