Kat Barry: Creamy cashew pesto

Published 9:04 am Friday, September 13, 2013

By Kat Barry

While we still have seasonal basil in plentiful supply, I want to encourage you to use it in new ways. Or at least put a new spin on something you’re already familiar with. I’m sure all of you have heard of pesto, but have you ever made it at home? Did you know it can be as, if not more rich and satisfying without parmesan cheese? Raw cashews soaked in water are an excellent way to get the richness your palate craves, with all the health benefits of nuts and none of the cholesterol cheese brings with it.
By adding to basil pesto, you will have a satisfying and scrumptious spread that will be gone in a flash.
Pesto is a simple and quick recipe that can be served in a variety of ways and is sure to always impress your friends. You can use pesto as a ravioli or shell stuffing, as a spread or dip with crudite and pita chips, or place it atop crostini or flat bread for a decadent appetizer.
Local basil should still be available in large quantities for not very much money at your local farmers market or stand, otherwise use arugula, spinach, or parsley instead of some or all of the basil. You could even add olives or sundried tomatoes to reduce the basil by a 1/2 cup each or so. As always, get creative and make it your own.
This recipe, and more like it, will be released in The New Chicago Diner Cookbook, which I co-authored with Jo Kaucher. The book is available for pre order on amazon.com but will be released in early December.

Creamy Cashew Pesto

1 cup raw cashews (available at Martin’s or Apple Valley)
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
About 5 cups fresh basil
4 cloves garlic
1tablespoon dried onion
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
Dash black pepper

1. Place cashews in a small mixing bowl and cover with water. Let soak at least 30 minutes.
2. Keeping about 2 tablespoons of the water, pour cashews into the base of a food processor fitted with the S blade. Add remaining ingredients and puree until smooth and creamy. You will want to scrape the sides of the processor frequently with a rubber spatula. You may also need to add the basil in half at a time depending on your processor.
3. Serve with pita chips and crudite.