Friday, March 7, 2014

Cashew Nut Pesto

Never before in my life would I have considered a "vegan" pesto before this one.  It doesn't have to be vegan though (feel free to add lots of cheese). For those of you who are dairy-free this is an absolute dream come true as the cashews provide such a wonderful creaminess and richness to the pesto that would otherwise be lacking without the Parmesan cheese. But like I said, the whole "vegan"thing is totally optional. Your call. 

There are a couple of secrets to pesto-making. First, always add a handful of raw baby spinach. This makes your pesto super vibrant and green to the max.  Second, you will notice the texture of my pesto in the photo's very smooth. This is all thanks to my Vitamix . You can, of course, make this recipe using a food processor but know that you will have a chunkier, classic looking pesto, not an ultra smooth velvety one.  Both are delicious - it all depends what sort of texture you are looking to achieve. 

I use pesto on everything. In this case it was a sort of green dressing for a grain salad - the grain being Farro - but you can use a variety of grains, pasta, quinoa, etc. If you are going the grain salad route - wait until your grains have cooled down considerably before tossing them in the pesto so that it stays nice and bright green and doesn't get brownish on you. I finished my salad with fresh chèvre and leftover oven roasted broccolini - that's the beauty of grain salads - they are perfect vessels for utilizing leftover veggies from last night's dinner.  This is where you can get creative - play with different combinations of vegetables, herbs, and cheese (Parmesan, creamy goat, and feta are all fabulous options).  Finish with chili flakes, lemon zest, salt and pepper. 

Sometimes Vegan Cashew Nut Pesto
makes 1 pint 

1 cup raw Cashews
1/8 cup Pine Nuts 
3 cups Fresh Basil Leaves
1 cup Fresh Baby Spinach
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp Kosher Salt
Pinch of Lemon Zest 
1 cup grated Parmesan Cheese (optional)
Olive Oil, as needed 

1. Add all ingredients except oil in to your food processor or vitamix blender.
2. Add 1 cup of oil to start before you turn on your chosen machine. Once it gets going, you slowly drizzle oil until you obtain ideal consistency and texture. 
3. Taste for seasoning - adjust as needed with salt and pepper. 
4. Stores well for 3-4 days in the fridge. 

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