I suspect that when someone says plague, your brain immediately defaults to plague. basil plague, traditionally made with basil, but also pine nuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil, salt, pepper and sometimes a squeeze of lemon. So this is a classic for a reason. Because the recipe is perfect.
However, the deeper we go in the plant-based direction, the more we find that most plague can be classified into five basic parts.
Vegetables (or herbs) + olive oil + nuts + lemon + salt and pepper. (Cheese: your choice)
Now I find myself making pesto from just about any vegetable. You may have already read about my favorite broccoli pesto, which I recently recreated using steamed asparagus instead of broccoli.
I’m also really into the arugula pesto (shown above with the fried chickpeas). It’s like the magic drizzle sauce that holds together all the recipes for the next cookbook I’m working on. My friend Robin started making spinach pesto, but the beginning was accidental. “I didn’t have enough basil at all, so I used baby spinach leaves to make up for it,” she told me. Her daughters were still small at the time, so she still cooks it that way for extra nutrition.
Even the crushed pea toast we always make is a kind of pesto: peas + mint + lemon + olive oil + palm. Just imagine how incredibly delicious it would be to dilute this with a little water and drizzle it over spaghetti.
that’s not all vegetable The nuts are also replaceable, which should please anyone who has experienced sticker shock when picking up (and then putting down) a container of pine nuts. You could also use walnuts or almonds (above, mixed with basil, olive oil and lemon)…
…or Pepita dancing beautifully in a blender with cilantro, lime and olive oil. The resulting cilantro pesto is perfect for drizzling over black bean tacos.
Below are the general steps for making pesto, but it’s a good time to exercise your improvised muscles.
plague plague that can do anything
About 4 cups cooked vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, peas, jarred roasted peppers) or greens (spinach, arugula, kale) or herbs (coriander, parsley, or of course basil)
About 1/3 cup of nuts such as almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, pistachios, and pepita
about 1/2 cup olive oil
Squeeze the juice of a fresh lemon or lime
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 clove of garlic (coarsely chopped)
Add veggies, herbs, veggies (or a combination!), nuts, lemon (or lime), salt and pepper, and cheese (if using) to blender. Process until everything is finely chopped.
Turn on the blender and slowly pour the oil through the top opening until the pesto is emulsified and light in color. Add a little more water if it’s too thick (pasta water works best, but if you only have tap water it will work). If it is too thin, add more greens or greens. Continue to taste the pesto, adding more salt, lemon, oil, and water to thin it out. (This is more art than science.)
Toss with pasta, drizzle over tacos, or spread on sandwiches.
PS Trader Joe’s hacks, Dolly Greenspan’s “everything” cake, and just five salad dressings you’ll need.
(first and last pics are by Christine Han. )