One night when I was in college I sat at my friends counter staring at another plate of pasta, I think I had eaten pasta every night during the past week...because if you didn't know pasta is very affordable...and college students frequently buy affordable food. I really had come to a point where I was sick of it, like so much so that I was contemplating forgoing eating dinner altogether...which if you know me doesn't happen really ever.
Something was different about this pasta dish though. It was covered in a heavenly smelling green sauce. The warm steam was filled with the scent of fresh garlic and basil. Putting the culinary puzzle together I concluded it was pesto. What a great break from the boring jarred marinara my previous weeks dishes were covered in! Soon enough I found out indeed it was pesto, and not just any pesto. It was fresh homemade pesto from my friends Italian father! Ahhhh, I couldn't put the fork to the plate fast enough...I knew I was in for a treat. I L-O-V-E-D pesto and it was the best I had ever had. Come to think of it I had never had homemade pesto. Man was it so much better than the jarred stuff from Trader Joe's. I was immediately hooked, unfortunately I don't make it that much, one reason being the incredible price of pine nuts. $16 on average for 8 oz, which will be used promptly if you make a big batch of pesto. I just cannot rationalize spending over $20 for a batch of pesto, no matter how much I love it.
However, the other day I purchased some beautiful lemon basil and knew it would make a great pesto. I priced out pine nuts again only to have my hopes of their price reduction dashed away and then I thought hell I'll just make it without nuts. The result was a surprisingly rich and flavorful pesto. I am so glad I tried it, I may never make pesto with nuts again. Another bonus of this recipe is that is vegan, as I had no parmesan in my fridge either...I know why was I trying to make pesto in the first place? Two of the top three ingredients in a typical pesto were no where to be found...but I like a challenge. Also, as if a vegan nut-free pesto weren't enough I lactofermented it! Giving it an extra gut loving probiotic boost, check this out for why lactofermented food should be an integral part of everyones diet.
So lets ogle over the pesto for a bit. First off lemon basil is quite different from the typical basil most know. It has a smaller more textured leaf and is used mostly in Thai, Lao, and Persian food. It emits a bright lemon scent and packs a spicy lemon punch to the tongue with a sweet basil finish. It is quite delicious and gives dimension to any dish it's added to. The next ingredient is sun-dried tomatoes, zesty and sweet. Now I used homemade ones (thanks Aunt Jeanne😊) so they were not jarred in oil and I chose to not rehydrate them. You could use store bought ones in oil just cut back on the oil a bit in the recipe. However, if you have a choice buy ones without oil as they will absorb the flavors of the basil and garlic better.
Once made this pesto is, as I already described, delicious! It's bursting with lemon and sun-dried tomato flavor. The basil and sun-dried tomato combo combines to an almost creamy quite rich taste. It is bright, sweet, and robust. It is delicious on pasta or atop eggs or even on a turkey panini. If you like pesto you will not be disappointed by this recipe.
For those who are new to lactofermentation this is a great article, from Cultures for Health, explaining the basics. To sum it up lactofermentation has been done for centuries and it's the art of preserving food by adding good lactobacillus bacteria. The good bacteria produce lactic acid that stops the bad bacteria from growing and rotting food. It also increases the vitamin and enzyme level in foods as well as eases digestion.
If you want to try your hand at lactofermentation, it's rather easy to start. You will need whey for this recipe and a little extra salt. To make the whey you need to strain whole milk yogurt for about 6-24 hours. The clear liquid that drains from the yogurt is whey. A quart of yogurt makes about 1 1/2 of whey so there will be plenty left over for other recipes. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. A basic google search will help you with more detail, I will also do a post on it soon. Feel free to leave a comment below with questions as well. By lactofermenting this pesto it offers as easy and delicious way to add probiotics to your meals. We should all be eating at least one probiotic rich food a day for optimal gut health. Remember leaky gut is treated in part by probiotic foods.
Yields 1 cup
- 2 Bunches of Lemon Basil
- 4 Large Garlic Cloves - chopped
- 2/3 cup Sun-dried Tomatoes - chopped
- 2 Tbs fresh squeezed Lemon
- 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil - this is the brand I love.
- 2 Tbs Water - omit 1 Tbs if lactofermenting
- 2 Tbs Whey + scant 1/4 tsp extra Salt if lactofermenting
- Salt and Pepper to Taste
- In a food processor add the lemon basil, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and lemon. Pulse processor until finely chopped.
- Add the olive oil slowly and blend until combined.
- If the texture appears too thick add the water and blend. If it looks right to you, forgo the water altogether. If you are fermenting then the pesto should be on the thick side as the whey will thin it out.
- Add salt and pepper to taste and blend once more.
- Remove from processor and your done if you choose to not ferment.
- If you are fermenting
- Place the pesto in a canning jar.
- In a measuring cup mix the whey with the 1/4 tsp of extra salt until dissolved.
- Add the whey mixture to the pesto, stirring in by hand.
- Seal jar with an airtight lid and place on the countertop for 48 hours.
- After 48 hours place the jar in refrigerator or cold cellar and enjoy.
The lactofermented pesto will keep for over a year...but don't count on it because it will get gobbled up. The non-fermented version will keep for about 5 days.