Sunday, January 26, 2014

Fish - Friendly Pesto

Pesto is one of those miracle ingredients. With just a few fresh elements and a little bit of mincing and mixing (with a handy food processor or a mortar and pestle), a new condiment springs to life that can instantly transform boring pasta, mediocre grilled cheese or plain grilled protein - among a host of other uses. The mixture of fresh herbs, (usually) garlic and oil freezes beautifully too, so even when it's - what - -30°C outside, it's easy for me to pull a couple cubes from the freezer and toss them into soup or a simple saute for a bright pop of flavour.

One of my other favourite things about pesto is that it is infinitely variable - the most common version is pesto alla genovese (garlic, genovese basil, pine nuts, olive oil, Parmigiano Reggiano and Fiore Sardo), but if you have dairy or nut allergies, are vegan or have other dietary restrictions or flavour preferences it's incredibly simple to modify what you use. For instance, this past summer I grew a basil variant in my garden - lime basil - and since I immediately thought of grilled fish and light pasta salads when I tasted it I wanted to make a pesto that would suit those recipes. 

Fish-Friendly Pesto

I can't afford, nor do I like the flavour of, pine nuts, and I fall into the traditional Italian mentality that cheese of any kind does not belong in any proximity to fish or seafood (Tuna melts? Tuna casserole? Blech). Instead, I jazzed up this mixture with a medley of sunflower and lime flavours along with the prerequisite garlic (if it's savoury and in my kitchen, garlic is in everything). With a bag of ground sunflower seeds, good quality sunflower oil, a few cloves of homegrown garlic and a sack of limes, it only took a touch of simple salt and pepper to create a vegan pesto that was the talk of the Summer BBQ, as well as a simple salmon supper last week!

Of course, I realize that lime basil isn't something you can just grab from the grocery store shelf, especially mid-Winter. While we wait for the warm weather to bring out the funky plants again (and I really do suggest growing some of this herb!), pots of genovese basil are still available (at least where we shop) so you can have your own in the kitchen. When you make this (or any other recipe calling for lime basil), just add the remaining zest from the lime.  

Shared with Wellness Weekend and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday

Fish - Friendly Pesto
Makes 160g, about 6 servings
50g lime basil
½ cup ground sunflower seeds
3 cloves garlic, peeled
zest of ½ lime
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
¼ cup sunflower (or grapeseed) oil
  1. Combine the basil, sunflower seeds, garlic, lime zest and juice, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor.
  2. Run the machine until mixture is finely ground.
  3. With the machine running, stream in the oil through the feed tube until a smooth paste forms.
  4. Store in the fridge or freeze.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 122.1
Total Fat: 10.6 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 187.5 mg
Total Carbs: 5.3 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.0 g
Protein: 5.0 g