I don’t know about you, but I LOVE pesto! Pesto screams summer to me, or better yet, my fantasy of sitting at a seaside cafe in Genoa, Italy at sunset, holding my handsome husband’s hand while a light, salt kissed breeze strokes my face as I sip on a glass of Italy’s finest vino and I twirl gluten free pasta tossed with scallops and pesto around my fork.
And then I’m rudely brought back to reality when one of my little ones quips, “mommmmm…what is this green stuff on my chicken?”
“Just try it, I promise you will like it.”
“Mmmm…this is good. We can call these moldy fingers!”
Let’s put these ideas together, shall we? A breezy seaside dusk in Italy, a nice glass of wine, the freshest basil pesto in the world and…moldy fingers??
Kinda takes the romance out of it doesn’t it?
Traditionally, pesto is made with basil (or another herb, like mint or parsley), pine nuts (or other nut or seed), garlic, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. But what if you can’t have the casein-laden cheese? Does that mean “the fantasy” is lost to you forever? Heck no!
When first I contemplated pesto without the cheese, I thought long and hard about what it was that the Parmesan contributed in this beautiful green sauce.
Was it color? No.
Was it texture? No.
Was it saltiness and tang? YES!
So which ingredients could possibly make up for this loss of flavor and stimulation of the tongue?
How about fresh squeezed lemon juice and a sprinkle of sea salt? YES!
2 cups Fresh Basil Leaves, packed
1/3 cup Pine Nuts or Walnuts (or perhaps raw sunflower seeds for those who are tree nut-free?)
3 medium Garlic Cloves, minced
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 and 1/2 tsp. fresh squeezed Lemon Juice (more or less, to taste)
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
- In a food processor or blender, combine the basil leaves with the nuts (or seeds), lemon juice and sea salt. Pulse a few times until mixture is reduced in volume and the mixture is well incorporated.
- Add the garlic and pulse a few times more.
- Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the blender or food processor is running, stop to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
- Taste. Add more lemon juice and/or salt if needed.
- Serve with pasta, chicken, shrimp, scallops, grilled vegetables or even on gluten free bruschetta!
The following is the picture of the perfect, pan-seared scallops and the perfect casein-free pesto. As far as the seaside table, relaxing breeze and the quiet, romantic moment? Maybe another time.
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