I may have overdone it. Again.
I have a tendency to get overly excited about one crop every year and plant way more than one family can possibly eat.
Exhibit A, last year’s garlic haul:
By June, when I still had half a bushel left and it became obvious that we weren’t going to finish it before this year’s crop was ready, I blitzed the remaining heads in the food processor, with just enough olive oil to make a paste, and froze it in small jars and ice-cube trays. I have to say, as far as mistakes go, it’s been a blessing. I love having garlic frozen and ready to go so much, that I may start doing this regularly from now on.
This year, it was basil. We love it and eat a lot of pesto, so I planted a nice big patch (forty square feet, give or take). I’ve been fighting to keep up with it all summer, and as colder temperatures approach, it would appear I’m losing. Our freezer already has 30 jars of pesto hidden in its depths, and that number may double once all is said and done.
This morning, in a fit of determination, I picked about half of the basil, started making pesto, and promptly ran out of walnuts. This is a problem when you live on an island and the local grocery store’s nickname is “Tiffany’s”. Walnuts are spendy at the best of times, and when there’s a ferry involved, forget about it. Thankfully, hubby was in the city today and stocked up, so the process will continue tomorrow.
The basil I’d already picked was stemmed and stuffed into Ziploc bags for freezing. Aside from pesto, this is my favourite way to keep basil, as it maintains that lovely fresh flavour when crumbled into soups and pasta sauces. I like to have two or three large bags full in the freezer going into winter.
This year, I decided to experiment with non-dairy pesto. I tried a few that I found online, but none of them were quite right. I finally just ended up tweaking my old stand-by (a variation of Molly Katzen’s). The result is rich and delicious, and you’d never know it’s parm-free.
I like to keep the oil lower than most pestos, because it makes a nice solid cube when frozen (and my husband’s tummy can’t handle too much oil). If necessary, it can be stretched a bit with a splash of pasta water or more oil when it comes time to use it. The nutritional yeast is an excellent replacement for parmesan, and if you buy the fortified kind, it will give you a good hit of B12 and vitamin D, something everyone could use a bit more of, not just vegans.
Our favourite way to eat pesto is stirred into pasta with potatoes and green beans, just like they do on the Ligurian Coast. Comfort food in its purest form.
If you have suggestions for ways to use pesto, I could use a few (dozen)!
No Parm Vegan Pesto
Delicious non-dairy, lower fat, vegan pesto.
- 2/3 cup raw walnuts
- 4 large cloves garlic (approx. 2 tbsps chopped)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
- 2 tbsp lemon juice optional, but recommended
- 6 cups basil leaves
- 2/3 cup olive oil
Pulse the garlic, walnuts, and salt in a food processor. Add basil in batches and chop fine. Add nutritional yeast and lemon juice, process. Stop machine and stir contents to ensure everything is incorporated. With the machine running, drizzle the olive oil through the feeder tube.
Either use immediately, or freeze in ice cube trays (pop out and store in a freezer bag once frozen) or small jars (leave 1/4 - 1/2 inch of head space to allow for expansion).
Pesto can be stretched at time of serving with either more olive oil, or pasta cooking water.