Back when I was less adventurous in my eating and my cooking I ate a lot of tomato, mozzarella and basil paninis with vegan pesto. Part of it was habit and laziness but the other is that the panini is a comfort food to me. I love the crispy bread with the warm tomato and the smell of basil. It always takes me back to the apartment I shared with my sister in San Francisco. The kitchen was right off the front door so the minute you walked in you were hit by the unmistakable scent of basil, which was, without fail, always sitting on the counter. Every time I cook with it, it transports me back to that little kitchen in Pac Heights. I just love how food is so powerful in that way.
Now that I eat less bread and cheese, I don’t make quite as many paninis as I once did but over the weekend I had a craving. Unfortunately the Whole Foods near me only carries big tubs of basil which felt like a waste for one or two sandwiches. But I didn’t let that deter me. I figured I’d use a few leaves for paninis and use the rest to make vegan pesto. After a few cheese sandwiches, I didn’t feel the need to add any to the pesto.
I used a mixture of pistachios and cashews for this recipe. My cousin is allergic to both and I know my aunt will ask, so feel free to sub pine nuts, almonds or walnuts. All would be delicious.
I also soaked my pistachios and cashews for a few hours before I processed them but I’m not 100% sure this is necessary. If you try this recipe without soaking them first, let me know how it turns out.
1/4 cup pistachios
1/4 cup cashews
3 cups tightly packed fresh basil, destemmed
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1/2 tablespoon garlic
pinch of sugar
Salt, to taste
Soak pistachios and cashews for a few hours if you’d like.
Throw nuts, basil, lemon juice and garlic into a food processor.
Whirl processor while adding a steady stream of olive oil.
Add sugar and salt at very end to taste.
If it’s still too thick, add a bit more olive oil or lemon juice. To be honest, sometimes I just add a few tablespoons of water to loosen it up instead of oil. I don’t love a super oily pesto.
I’m not a huge pasta fan but I’m sure Michael will eat it atop some GF spaghetti. One of my favorite ways to eat pesto is over vegetables. I steam whatever I have in my fridge and then mix in a generous helping of the pesto while the veggies are still piping hot. The pesto thins from the heat and evenly coats the vegetables. Absolutely delicious.