Frugal Flavorful Pesto



Introduction: Frugal Flavorful Pesto

About: I'm an industrial design student, which is like being a professional maker except you have no time to make anything. On the rare occasions I steal time from somewhere else, this is my little oasis.

Basil is tasty. It's also expensive. Here's how to extend your pesto recipe without compromising taste or nutrition! It also works for many specialized diets, including low oxalate. 

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Step 1: Ingredients

Any basic pesto has:

1. Basil -and lots of it!
2. Garlic - fresh of course
3. Cheese - generally parmesan. To make this vegan, cut this out or substitute with nutritional yeast
4. Olive Oil- usually extra virgin
5. Nuts- traditionally pine nuts aka 'pignoli' 

Now most of these ingredients are cheap, or at least are already available in your kitchen. But basil is always my hold up- it's got to be fresh, so you can't stock pile it, and compared to other greens it's much more expensive. Pine nuts can also be pricey when you consider the over-all price of a meal. So how do we extend or replace these ingredients? 

1: Let's use some other greens! Basil is a very flavorful plant, and if you mix it with a mild green, all you taste is basil! For this Instructable, I used kale. More on that later. 

2: Mix in some Thai basil. You can buy it in bunches at Asian markets, for cheaper than sweet basil.

3: Use a different nut. Specifically a nut butter. It's cheaper, goes farther, and makes for a smoother consistency.  

Step 2: Prep Your Ingredients

Making pesto is easy- you just throw everything into a food processor and go. But first you have to make sure everything's ready to go in. 

You'll notice that kale is thicker and rougher than the basil. It needs to be blanched to make it soft enough to puree. Remove the leaves, chop roughly, and throw in a pot of boiling water for about 2-3 min. Drain.

You may also want to blanch the Thai basil. It's a bit spicier than sweet basil, and blanching it will soften the edge. If you like the taste, keep it raw.

Strip all the leaves of basil off the stems. 

Grate the cheese. 

Step 3: A Word on Low Oxalate Cooking

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or nutritionist. Always contact professionals regarding health conditions or special diets.

Oxalic acid is naturally occurring a many plants and seeds. It's also produced by humans as a waste product, and for the most part, we don't digest it. But certain people, such as those with gastric diseases, vulvar pain, and kidney stones, are more sensitive to it, and that can be problematic.  

Here's the good news- this is a low oxalate recipe! Here's how:

Spinach is usually used for extending pesto, but it's a no-go for low oxalate diets. But the specific type of kale used - Lacinato, is low oxalate when boiled and the water drained, according to the most recent research. So make sure to blanch that kale! Basil might be green, but it's already low oxalate. 

Nuts are usually a huge no-no, but according to the most recent research, sunflower seeds are actually not sky high in oxalates. If you're still weary about nuts, you don't have to use them, but at only a tablespoon per batch of pesto, it's not going to throw off your diet. 

Adding cheese is adding calcium. Adding calcium means any oxalates present can bond to it in your stomach, making them insoluble and un-absorbable. This is a good thing.  

Step 4: The Part Where You Get to Use Tools

Here's where you toss everything together and hit a button. Throw everything in a food processor, with the regular blade. 

If you want to play with other flavors, add other stuff in now as well. Sun dried tomatoes are a good standby, although that can raise raise oxalate levels a bit if that's a concern of yours. I always add a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon, it brings out the cheese and garlic flavors. 

Step 5: Store and Use

Store this in clean Tupperware or a nice jar, and keep in the fridge. 

How to use? Traditionally it's used as a pasta sauce, but it can also be used in sandwiches, to flavor chicken, in salad, as a dip... Make a jar and see how long it lasts, a little goes a long way! 

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