John says there is basil in the box this week. My loss since we won’t be in Park City to reap the harvest. But I am getting some organic basil right away, because I want to try the recipe for vegan pesto from this month’s Vegetarian Times magazine, with nutritional yeast substituting for Parmesan cheese. And I’ll indulge the expense of pine nuts vs. my usual economy use of walnuts, so as not to alter my go-to basil pesto recipe too much, at least this first test of cheese-less pesto. When good cheese is calling my name, I can’t stick to a vegan diet, but I do know how nutritional yeast substitutes for cheese in recipes. It’s not the same but is delicious in its own healthy way. Have you ever had nutritional yeast sprinkled on popcorn like they do in Eureka California movie theaters?
Basil in the lettuce spinner
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup nutritional yeast
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
With the motor of the food processor running, mince the garlic by dropping it through the feed tube. Process until it is very finely chopped. Add the basil, pine nuts, nutritional yeast and salt. Process for about 10 seconds, stopping to move things around if they get hung up. With the machine running, pour oil through the feed tube in a thin stream, processing until everything is well blended.
Makes about 1 cup.
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I learned a new trick this summer that makes zucchini more enjoyable—a Deborah Madison suggestion to improve the texture and flavor of squash by salting. It takes more time, but I have decided it’s worth the hassle. The trick is to sprinkle the diced or sliced squash with salt and let it stand in a colander over a plate for 15 to 30 minutes, until a pool of liquid drains out. Deborah says to rinse and squeeze dry, but I have just been rinsing and draining on a towel. The cooked squash doesn’t turn translucent and watery—undesirable characteristics to me and, I think, many more cooks and eaters.
This recipe uses the same salting technique with cucumbers. It is from Tassajara Dinners & Desserts by Dale and Melissa Kent, adapted in an article in September 2009 Vegetarian Times magazine. I have adapted it further, using my mother’s habit of scoring cucumbers for visual appeal.
1 pound cucumbers, about 3
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari soy sauce
2 teaspoons mirin (rice wine)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon toasted black sesame seeds
Peel the cucumbers and trim the ends. Run the tines of a fork in parallel lines down the length of the cucumbers to score what will be decorative lines on the slices. Slice thinly, about 1/8-inch thick. Sprinkle the slices with salt; let drain in a colander over a plate about 20 minutes. Rinse and drain the cucumbers on towels.
Make a dressing with the vinegar, soy sauce, mirin, ginger and red pepper flakes. Toss the cucumber with the dressing and the sesame seeds. Refrigerate to marinate about an hour.
Makes about 6 servings.
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