Saturday, July 28, 2012

Vegan Basil Pesto is the Chicken Soup for My Summer Soul

One of the things I look forward to the most in summer (besides water, sunshine, grilling, amusement parks, and outdoor dining) is fresh basil pesto.  It is really quite the love affair.  I like to make a huge batch that J and I can nosh on fresh and then freeze the remainder of so we can taste summer in the cold months to come.  I love everything about making it.  I love the smell of the garlic as it sits patiently waiting in the processor.  I love going out to the garden and picking the basil from the plants that J has put so much time and care into.  I love how my house and my hands smell like basil for hours and hours after I have made it.  I even love writing about it.  I'm smiling right this second just thinking about the pesto I just wrapped up making.

I didn't taste basil pesto until I was in my early twenties.  I don't even know if I ever had fresh basil at all growing up.  It's not that my dad didn't cook good food.  He did.  From a young age I was obsessed with salads, wheat germ and fresh yogurt, fresh pasta with homemade sauce, breads, and various other dad specialties.  My dad was great in the kitchen.  He was creative and inspired.  He made food that had wonderful flavor and he made this food without ever consulting a recipe.  He raised me to not be afraid of any food (unless, of course, it had a beating heart before it came to my plate which was not at all his doing).  He didn't, however, use fresh herbs...ever.  That's okay though, a whole lot of people never do.  I think it makes me appreciate fresh herbs that much more as an adult having not had them as a child.

I've been waiting patiently to make my pesto.  Though we have eight basil plants in the garden this year, this drought and intense heat haven't allowed them to flourish like they have in the past.  So I waited and this week J gave me the green light!  I could make pesto!  I went out to the garden this morning and cut a bunch of basil.  I left a good amount too, in hopes that the plants can pull themselves together and produce more.  I know I'll make another batch this year and I know I'll also have several basil gimlets.  If I'm lucky, I'll have enough basil to use it in a few other concoctions throughout the summer.

This recipe makes about three and a half cups of pesto which is a whole lot.  Feel free to halve the recipe.  You can use pine nuts in place of the walnuts.  I use walnuts because they are a heckuvalot cheaper and I think they make the pesto creamier.  I really dig a creamy pesto.  If you'd like a less creamy pesto, I would decrease the amount of walnuts by about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup.  I also add a ton of garlic.  This makes it spicy and that is something that makes my stomach smile.  You won't hurt the recipe if you reduce the garlic by 5-10 cloves.


10 cups fresh basil (or a little more if you want)
1 cup walnuts
1 1/2 cups olive oil (the higher the quality, the more delicious the results)
25 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 tbsp lemon juice


Place basil, garlic, pepper, salt, pepper flakes, and lemon juice in food processor.  Blend on low.  Add olive oil slowly while continuing to blend.  Once it's nice and smooth, you're finished.  Enjoy it!