Sunday, November 15, 2015

Thai Basil Pesto

What do you do when you want to make pesto, but only your Thai basil is doing well, while your other basils are barely hanging on for dear life?

Well, you could make normal pesto using Thai basil, but that would be just too weird.  Thai basil is its own thing.  It really isn't a substitute for other basils.

So, embrace the Thai-ness of it.  Make Thai basil pesto.  I know that sounds weird, but it's weird in a good way. Whereas normal pesto using Thai basil would be weird in a bad way.

So, what might that look like?  Going ingredient by ingredient....

Garlic: Keep.  Thai food and garlic are friends.

Pine nuts: Nope. No way. Sesame seeds would be good, but using only sesame seeds would be kind of... seedy.   Almonds would be tasty, but they're too hard. Cashews have a good texture. Sesame seeds and cashews. Definitely!

Olive oil: Absolutely not! Toasted sesame oil is lovely, but a bit strong.  Using part untoasted sesame oil would be lovely, but I don't have any. So, maybe walnut oil along with the toasted sesame.

Pecorino romano: Cheese? Yuck! Not for Thai pesto. Just leave it out. Or increase the nuts.

Salt:  Yes. And black pepper.

So, more or less using my favorite pesto recipe, I just madke the substitutions above.  Except, I've been making pesto so long, I don't use a recipe and have no idea how much of each ingredient I use. I just do everything to taste. Here are some rough guidelines:

Ingredients (quantities are very approximate):

1-2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2-3 Tbsp walnut oil
2 cloves crushed garlic, or 2 garlic ice cubes, plus a dash of dry roasted garlic
1 fist full of cashews
2-3 Tbsp sesame seeds
2 cups loosely packed Thai basil leaves
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Pulse everything except basil, salt, & pepper until minced. 
  2. Pulse in basil leaves, being careful not to over process. 
  3. Add salt & pepper to taste.
  4. Store in refrigerator.

Serving suggestions:
  • Toss some with poached chicken and cooked rice noodles.
  • Plop some on cooked vegies to give them a little excitement.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Roasted Tomato Dipping Sauce

Two weeks ago, Dawn the Lovely and I were enjoying a beautiful Sunday afternoon, visiting, drinking coffee, shopping.  The perfect girlie day. And then....

Dawn bought a bistro box containing a delicious tomato dipping sauce. Channeling my mother, I made the rash and spontaneous statement, "We could make this!"  But would it be the same? "Of course not. We'll make it better!"

(Yup, definitely Bettye's child, here.)

And, we did.

I shopped for organic canned roasted tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Decided that either my avocado oil or walnut oil would suffice very nicely in lieu of olive oil.

Dawn came over. We went into the back yard so she could shop for herbs.  Pinching each one and getting high off the fumes, Dawn decided to use a combination of Greek and lemon basil, maybe a few leaves of the lime.  We added Rapunzel (aka my wild and overgrown Mexican oregano) and some Italian parsley.  And rosemary.  Because, for Dawn, life without rosemary would probably not be worth living.

Back to the kitchen to choose oils.  Dawn sniffed each oil, then tasted. She decided on walnut oil.

Maybe everything else should have been fresh, too.  But I'm pretty sure the commercial stuff used a lot of dried ingredients. So, here we go.... As always with this kind of thing, everything is really "to taste".   If you don't like it, it's your own fault.

2-3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar (we used three in the 2nd batch, which Dawn liked more)
4 pinches of salt
Fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp. granulated roasted garlic
1 tsp. dried minced onion
1 tsp. freeze dried shallots
About 2.5 tbsp. fresh basil
About 1 tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, maybe a little more
About 1 tbsp. fresh Mexican oregano
A few leaves of rosemary
About 4 tbsp. walnut oil (or olive, or....)
About 8 to 10 ounces canned roasted tomatoes

  1. Blend everything except oil and tomatoes with a stick blender until herbs are nicely chopped.
  2. Blend in the juice from the tomatoes, reserving the solids.
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings, keeping in mind that you will be adding the oil and more tomatoes. 
  4. Slowly drizzle in oil while blending on low to create a gorgeous emulsion.
  5. Make sure tomato solids are finely chopped, then spoon them in.
  6. Taste and adjust.

A note about the herbs:  Measuring full, unchopped herb leaves is an imprecise business at best.  You may stuff your measuring spoon more loosely or more fully than I do. So, the above measurements really are only suggestions. Also, you can use dried herbs.  Start with 1/4 to 1/3 the amounts suggested for fresh, and take it from there.

(Special thanks to Dawn the Lovely for staging the above photo.)