Poor Man’s Basil Pesto

Basil is an herb that has a very interesting nutrition profile.  Basil is an excellent source of vitamin K and a very good source of iron, calcium and vitamin A. In addition, basil is a good source of dietary fiber, manganese, magnesium, vitamin C and potassium.

Aside from being yummy and fragrant, basil has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. The essential oils in basil inhibits several bacteria that have become resistant to commonly used antibiotic drugs (  from a study published in the July 2003 issue of the Journal of Microbiology Methods). The enzyme-inhibiting effect of the eugenol in basil qualifies   basil as an “anti-inflammatory” food that can provide important healing benefits along with symptomatic relief for individuals with inflammatory health problems like rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel conditions.  The beta-carotene in basil may help to lessen the progression of conditions such as asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis while protecting cells from further damage.

Furthermore, magnesium in basil promotes cardiovascular health by prompting muscles and blood vessels to relax, thus improving blood flow and lessening the risk of irregular heart rhythms or a spasming of the heart muscle or a blood vessel.   

I have always loved pesto sauce as a quick fix recipe.  You can use it in many dishes.  I use it for my baked pesto chicken, baked potato, toasted baguette, crackers and pasta.

Pesto is very quick and easy to put together and it stores well too.  You can put it in plastic wrap lined ice trays and freeze it.  But if you are going to freeze your pesto sauce, do not add the parmesan cheese.  When you are ready to use your sauce, defrost it and the add freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Now, why did I call it Poor Man’s Pesto?  I called it as such because the real Pesto sauce calls for the use of pine nuts.  Pine nuts are really pricey and with the way I consume pesto,  I be in debt before I reach middle age.  So I tried to find something that has the same flavor profile of pine nuts which is creamy and buttery taste and the two nuts that have almost the same taste profile (for me) are Macadamias and Cashews.  Well macadamia nuts are expensive too so I ended up with cashew nuts. I buy the cashew nuts when they are on sale for $4.99 a pound.  Nonetheless,  I have read in a lot of articles that some pine nuts leave a bitter taste in the mouth that lasts for up to 2 weeks.  There is a chemical constituent in the nuts that causes the taste.  But you can use any kind of nut (walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds) but the taste would not be the same.

For the cheese, an alternative would be any salty cheese.  I know hard cheeses are expensive too.  Back in the day, I would increase the salt and top the dish with any grated soft cheese available.  You can also toast 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs in a some olive oil and add some salt.

Ingredients

1 c basil leaves, packed

1/3 c parsley leaves

1 clove garlic

nice handful of toasted cashews (skip if you have a nut allergy)

1/2 c freshly grated parmesan cheese

1/3 c extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

cooked pasta

more parmesan cheese for topping

Directions

In a food processor, pulse nuts.  Add basil, parsley and garlic and pulse a few times.

Slowly stream the olive oil while the processor is on.  Scrape down the sides with a spatula.

Add the grated cheese and pulse until well blended.  Add salt and pepper.

Serve with pasta and top with shaved parmesan cheese.

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