Making Vegan Basil Pesto and Pickled Hot Peppers
Can you believe that it’s almost October? It seems like the summer passed by so fast. With the nighttime temperatures dropping, it’s time to start harvesting the cold-sensitive plants.
I decided to deal with the plants at home first. Although I didn’t do much with the front garden this year, I did grow a large basil plant in the yard, and H grew two hot pepper plants on the front steps.
Even though the peppers technically aren’t mine, I’m the who does most of the gardening and cooking. As per H’s request, I harvested the remaining peppers — two jalepenos and five mystery peppers — and turned them into pickled chili peppers.
I just chopped them up and covered them with brine (1 cup water mixed with 1 tablespoon of sea salt), then put a cabbage leaf on top to “seatbelt” the peppers into the jar. They should finish fermenting within a week.
As for the basil, I have a tradition of growing one large plant each summer and harvesting the leaves to make basil pesto.
The homemade stuff is a hundred times better than anything you’ll ever find on the grocery store shelf. Most store brands use cheaper ingredients to lower the cost, like using soybean oil instead of pure olive oil, or using a blend of herbs such as parsley and basil instead of just basil. I’ve even tried a few brands that had a strange vinegary taste to them. If there’s a commercial brand of pesto that tastes fantastic, I haven’t found it yet.
The traditional recipe uses pine nuts, but you can use other nuts instead such as almonds. I made my first batch in August with pine nuts that I got for half price at the bulk barn. For my September batch, I am using unsalted, unroasted slivered almonds, which also work well.
According to cookbook author Donna Klein, it is common in Italy to make pesto without cheese if it is meant to be stirred into soup or if the household can’t afford the cheese. Personally, I prefer to leave out the cheese. It saves me a bit of money, and I don’t feel that I am missing out on anything. Vegan pesto has a wonderfully intense flavour.
It tastes delicious dropped into soup — I like to pair it with Vegetarian Times’ Garlicky Leek and Artichoke Soup — or mixed with pasta, chopped cherry tomatoes, and veggie balls. The recipe I’m posting here is adapted from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen. I reduced the amount of salt and substituted the pine nuts with slivered almonds. However, feel free to use pine nuts or to adjust the amount of salt.
Vegan Basil Pesto
- 3 cups fresh basil leaves
- 6 tablespoons of unsalted, nonroasted slivered almonds (or sliced almonds)
- 2-4 large cloves garlic (or more!)
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Combine the almonds in a blender or food processor until they resemble small crumbs. Add the garlic and salt and blend again.
Add a handful of basil leaves along with a bit of olive oil. Blend. Alternate between adding basil leaves and olive oil until you have added everything and a smooth paste has formed. If it is not completely smooth, that’s okay. Depending on your taste, you may find that some little crunchy bits make for a nice texture.
To store, transfer the pesto to a covered container and keep refrigerated for up to two days. You may also store it in the freezer for up to one month.