Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Creamy Pesto Sauce (Oil Free and Vegan!)

Perhaps my best discovery in this CSA adventure so far has been pesto.  It never occurred to me in my pre-CSA days to make pesto out of anything but basil.  Actually, it never even occurred to me to make my own pesto at all (versus getting it from a jar or, worse, a “packet”).

But, since starting the CSA, I learned, quickly -- and to my repeated joy -- that any dark, leafy green mixed with water, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and nuts will make a stellar pesto.  See, for example, my recipes here, here, and here.

But, in keeping with my overall healthy eating plan, I usually try to avoid using too much oil.  The amount of oil going into my pesto recipes was, admittedly, outrageous (a cup or more!).  So, I decided to see how pesto would taste with no oil at all. 

As it turns out: Still delicious.

Here was my recipe, which made use of all the dark, leafy greens I received in my most recent CSA delivery.

½ pound of whole-wheat pasta
1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
1 bunch beet greens, stems removed
1 bunch radish greens, stems removed
1 bunch carrot greens, stems removed
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bulb of a spring onion, chopped

First, soak the cashews in water, as if making a cashew cream sauce.  Set aside.  [Soaking at least an hour is recommended to get the creamiest texture; if you don’t have a Vitamix or a bullet-style blender, it could take far longer than an hour (perhaps even overnight) to get the cashews soft enough to “cream.”] 

Start a pot of water boiling for the pasta.

Blend the beet greens, radish greens, and carrot greens together with enough water to allow them to blend.  The beet and radish greens may get closer to a puree, but the carrot greens will lend some chunkiness.  Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the blended greens.  Remove the blended greens from the blender, placing them in a strainer over a bowl for a few minutes to strain out the excess water (I wouldn’t press the greens; the raw greens could get “bruised”).  Set aside.

[The water that comes out is essentially green juice.  You could drink it, if you’re so inclined.  I tasted it and was not so inclined, despite liking green juice generally.  I think it was the salty beet greens that turned me off.]

Blend the cashews with water until they reach a creamy consistency.  Set aside.

Place some water in a skillet and cook the garlic and the onion.  When the onion is starting to turn translucent, add the cashew cream.  Allow to heat through.  Add the blended greens.  Stir to combine thoroughly and allow to heat through.

Serve the pesto over the whole-wheat pasta.  I topped mine with cracked black pepper and a pinch of salt (like cashew cream sauce generally, I find it does need a pinch of salt).

The bottom line: Pesto doesn’t have to use oil.  This creamy version gets all its fat from a whole food (cashews) and is just as delicious as every other pesto I’ve made!

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