August 14, 2013

Recipe Challenge: Dreena's Lemony-Cashew Basil Pesto

So last night was the 2nd live online chat/Google Hangout for the Vegan Mainstream Cookbook Club. I was looking forward to this night in particular because Dreena Burton was the featured chef. Dreena is one of the professional chefs whose cookbooks inspired me to become a better and more diverse vegan cook. It was a really fun 40-ish minutes. The main theme was sauces and dips (in addition to herbs which is the overall August theme). She is very passionate about hummus - not just hummus, GOOD hummus. I learned that you can freeze hummus for several months. I don't know why I don't think about making bigger batches of these meals. Maybe it's because I'm enjoying the cooking aspect and the fact that everything is so fresh. There's something about freezing food that is unappealing to me (with the exception of chocolate and almond ice cream of course!). :-)  I'm sure I'll get over it once the "newness" of this cooking-from-scratch thing is over - maybe......

Earlier in the day, the site posted her Lemony-Cashew Basil Pesto recipe for everyone to try. The live hangout starts at 5:30p Pacific time so I wasn't ready to start dinner yet but I did give the recipe a try that night since I had all the ingredients at home already. I regularly keep Cashew "cheese" (I guess some would say it's Cashew butter) in the fridge and that made this fast & easy recipe even easier!  I included the full recipe from the Google+ site below.

I used about 1/2 c. of the cashew cheese I had in the fridge. This already had some lemon and garlic in it (which are also in this pesto recipe) but I did add more lemon juice, about 2 Tbl. I didn't have any dry mustard so I added 1/2 tsp of Dijon into the food processor with the other pesto ingredients. **Note: I excluded the oil completely. You can easily substitute water or even an equivalent amount of fresh lemon juice if more lemon is what you desire!

After about 1 minute in the food processor, it looks like this:

Just about any kind of pasta will go great with this pesto. I used tri-color veggie pasta. The picture posted with Dreena's recipe is more like spaghetti or linguine. I prefer to use pasta that will hold a little more of the sauce. :-)

Yesterday was also CSA pick up day so I quickly sauteed some delicious fresh yellow wax beans we received. And here's the final dish!:

Ready to give it a go for yourself? Here's the full recipe! If you don't have a high powered blender like a Vita Mix or a Blend Tec, you can either soak the raw cashews overnight (8+ hours) or you can boil them for about an hour. The idea is get to them as soft as possible before they go into your blender or food processor.

Happy Healthy Cooking!

Lemony-Cashew Basil Pesto (recipe and photo from +Dreena Burton's  eat, drink & be vegan

Traditional pesto takes on new life with this recipe. Cashews provide a buttery, creamy contrast to the tangy lemon juice and intense fresh basil. When basil is abundant, make double or triple batches, since this pesto freezes wonderfully.

•3–3½ tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
•1 large clove garlic
•¾ tsp dry mustard
•¾ tsp sea salt
•freshly ground black pepper to taste
•1 tbsp water
•2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (optional, for oil-free version add 1-2 tbsp extra water)
•1 cup + 1–2 tbsp raw cashews (see note)
•2½–2¾ cups (packed) fresh basil leaves and tender stems
•½–¾ lb (225–340 g) dry pasta of choice (see note)
•olive oil (for finishing, optional)

In a food processor, combine lemon juice, garlic, mustard, salt, pepper, oil, and water, and purée until fairly smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add cashews and basil and purée until fairly smooth (may leave some texture). Cook pasta according to package directions. When almost done, remove about 1/2 cup of pasta water and reserve. Drain pasta (do not rinse) and toss with pesto, using as much pesto as desired (see note).  If pasta seems too dry, add some pasta water, 1 tbsp at a time, until moistened to preference.  Season with additional salt and pepper if desired, and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

Cooking Notes from Dreena:

1) Use brown rice, quinoa, or other gluten-free pasta for a gf dish; use spelt, kamut, or other wheat-free pasta for a wheat-free dish.

2) Raw almonds may be substituted in part or entirely for cashews, just add extra water or oil to moisten when puréeing.

3) You can make this pesto in advance and refrigerate in a sealed container until you’re ready to cook the pasta.

4) This pesto also makes a dynamite sandwich spread or pizza sauce (or dollop on pesto as a pizza topping).

5) I like a lot of sauce on my pastas, but you may prefer less; use up to1 lb (450 g) pasta and add extra cooking water or oil to help distribute the pesto through the pasta.

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