Hannah Palmer Egan
Thai basil-coconut-cashew pesto
Making pesto is one of summer's most joyous pleasures. It's a snap to prepare — the recipe below takes 15 minutes — and eating it is always a special treat.
I'm a fan of the classic Italian blend of basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and Parmesan. But taking that recipe as a basic equation — green leaves + (garlic) + oil + nuts + (something creamy) + (a splash of citrus) + salt — opens up endless combinations of deliciousness.
So ask yourself: What green leaves do I have on hand, and what would they combine well with?
I've used radish greens and chèvre
. And dandelions and blue cheese,
or ramps and walnuts
. I've never made the same pesto twice.
Today, I whipped up a (vegan!) vaguely Asian batch with Thai basil (widely available at farmers markets), coconut oil, cashews and ginger, and ate it with baby carrots, snap peas and flowering broccoli for an afternoon snack.
New to pesto-making? Here are a few tricks: If you're attached to the idea of green pesto, blanch the basil before blending it. This kills some of the herb's fresh, peppery aroma, but it fixes the leaves' green color and keeps the pesto from turning gray-brown after blending. And it makes a nicer presentation.
Another thing: Freeze it! I stash half of each batch in the freezer (in 8-ounce plastic containers), and revel in snacking on it throughout the winter when green things — and fresh herbs — are scarce.
Thai Basil-Coconut-Cashew Pesto
Makes 2-3 cups
- 2 cups Thai basil leaves
- 1/2 cup cold-pressed coconut oil
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 1/2 cups cashews
- 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 cup water (or 1/2 cup coconut milk)
- Salt to taste
- Gently blanch the basil: Plunge leaves into boiling water and allow to wilt 8-10 seconds (and no more!), then submerge in an ice-water bath 30 seconds or so. Reserve a cup of the liquid — you'll use some of it to thin the pesto to the right consistency.
- Place basil in food processor with oil, garlic, nuts, ginger and lemon. Pulse to mix, then blend 5-10 seconds.
- Add a quarter-cup of the reserved basil water (OK if it's still warm), or coconut milk for a creamier version. Pulse/blend until smooth; add additional liquid in two-tablespoon increments until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Garnish with basil leaves and serve with crisp, fresh veggies.