I’m not one for veganizing foods unless I’m cooking for someone who’s lactose intolerant or doesn’t like dairy (happy to report that I haven’t met anyone that falls in the latter category).

Having said that, I do however try and reduce my dairy intake for a couple of reasons. One, most cheeses that are available where I live are heavily processed and chock-full of additives. There are some really good brands out there but as is always the case, they come with hefty price tags.

Two, I suspect that dairy is the most likely culprit for my acne. For a short while I reduced a huge portion of dairy products from my diet and my skin started to clear up during that time. I couldn’t say for sure, but it has given me enough incentive to moderate my consumption.

But I saved the real reason for the end: Where is the fun in finding exactly what you need and using it exactly how you’re ‘supposed’ to use it?

The main point of cooking for me is to break away from the monotony of a regimented approach. I like to use ingredients that grow locally and seasonally. In finding ways to incorporate them into dishes in creative ways. (This recipe uses miso which is one hundred percent not local or seasonal, but it’s cheap for how much you can stretch it – I buy in bulk and I’ve had it in my fridge for nearly two years now. Almonds in place of pine nuts because it does the job just as well for half the price. Nutritional yeast, another ingredient I use here, is from a local store in Auroville.)

Parmesan in a traditional pesto adds a certain depth of flavour and umami savouriness that is essential in an otherwise one-dimensional herb and nut paste. Miso and nutritional yeast—typically used in dishes for that very quality— help achieve that here.

Like this pesto doesn’t have enough going for itself already, here’s one more: shelf life. Pour enough oil to cover the top layer of the pesto in the storage jar and keep refrigerated. It keeps well for a week (I’ve even pushed 10 days). The top layer will take on a dark shade of green over time, but this is just a natural oxidization process that discolours it. Akin to apple slices turning brown upon slicing. It doesn’t impact the taste and is perfectly safe for consumption.

To freeze, dollop pesto into ice cube trays. Freeze until hard, then take individual cubes out, add to a ziplock bag and put back in the freezer compartment. Thaw for a few hours before using. If using in soups and other hot dishes, stir in the frozen cubes directly; no need to thaw. Keeps well for up to three months.

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VEGAN PESTO
Adapted from Sneh Roy (Cook Republic)
Servings
1 cup
Ingredients
  • 5 cups fresh basil
  • 3/4 cup almonds
  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Salt, to taste
Servings
1 cup
Ingredients
  • 5 cups fresh basil
  • 3/4 cup almonds
  • 1 tbsp miso paste
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Salt, to taste
Instructions
  1. Add garlic, miso paste, nutritional yeast and almonds to a blender jar and blend for a few seconds. You’re looking for a coarse, clumpy powder.
  2. Add olive oil and basil and blend again, stopping a few times in between to tamp down all the ingredients. Blend until almost smooth or to a consistency you like. Add a little more oil to loosen if necessary.
  3. Storage: (In the fridge) - decant into a glass jar and pour enough oil to cover the top layer. Stays good refrigerated for up to a week. You may notice the pesto go a darker shade of green over time. This is just a natural oxidization process that doesn't impact the taste and is perfectly safe to consume.
  4. (In the freezer) - dollop pesto into ice cube trays. Freeze until hard, then take individual cubes out, add to a ziplock bag and freeze. Thaw for a few hours before using. If using in soups and other hot dishes, stir in the frozen cubes directly; no need to thaw. Keeps well for up to 3 months.
Recipe Notes

* I used red miso paste (aka miso). Shiro miso is less pungent so you might need to add more. Taste and adjust quantities.

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