Saturday, August 30, 2014

Walnut Basil Paté

Walnut Basil Paté (a savory, plant-based, pesto-like spread)

It's the last weekend in August. My boyfriend is going away. And at his house, a slightly wilty bunch of sweet basil that won't wait 'til Tuesday.

Naturally, I took it for my own.

Not a lot of basil—maybe a half a cup of leaves, loosely speaking. Surely enough for a little pesto of sorts, and what better time for pesto than now, Labor Day Weekend, when summer bows to harvest with September rolling in...

Sigh. Even though Fall has the best weather, I'm always a little sorry to see Summer go. Then again, the fresh produce is so abundant this time of year, I can't help but love it!

Anyway, here’s what happened. I got back home and tossed my little bunch of basil leaves into the Cuisinart with a clove of garlic (peeled and chopped) and about two big handfuls (a scant cup) of premium California walnut halves. I quickly pulse-processed these three ingredients—garlic, nuts and basil—into a green meal. Then, I added some seasonings—a quarter teaspoon of Himalayan pink salt, two teaspoons of nutritional yeast—and started processing again, this time while slowly fine-streaming, through the feeder tube, just enough extra virgin olive oil into the whirling mix to bind it together. (I haven’t quite eliminated solid fats and liquid oils altogether from my diet but I’m working on it, so I always use the minimum.) The moment the pesto bound together, I stopped the machine because I never like to over-process anything.*

What I ended up with is not so much a pesto as a Walnut Basil Paté that is so chewy and buttery and rich and DELICIOUS that I just want to eat the whole thing with a spoon RIGHT NOW.

But I won’t. I’ll save some for later. (But not TOO too later, because fresh is best.)

*Juicing, blending and food processing are marvelous inventions but they come with a price. Grinding up any whole food exposes all that was protected and volatile beneath the skin to damaging elements like oxygen and light. That’s why apples and avocadoes turn brown when you cut them: oxidation. So once you press, grind or cut into any whole food, best to eat it quick! I’d say this here pesto-like spread will be good for about three days…if it makes it that long. Enjoy it on whole grain toast, flax crackers, salad, soba or raw zucchini noodles. Bon appetit!


Exploding Mary said...

Pesto is a food that doesn't need defatting, I feel. It is best served with water to help make a sauce around it, so the fat is essential.

I can't see the point of eliminating all fats in any case. It makes for bad skin and hair, to begin with.

diana allen, ms, cns said...

It would not be a good idea to eliminate all fats, Mary, I totally agree! It's more the fractionated liquid oils that I suggest minimizing.

We totally need a small amount of natural, healthy fat in the diet. Best that it comes from whole foods—nuts, seeds, avocado, eggs or fish for non vegans—and then, in strict moderation.

This current trend towards indulging in unlimited amounts of healthy fats is not going to bode well in the end. Most human populations (exception: Eskimos) did not evolve on a high fat diet and our bodies today won't thrive on one. Liquid oils especially are unstable, prone to oxidation and free radical formation and tend to damage blood vessel linings. Saturated fats are also problematic in excess. The proof is pretty strong there.

But you're right: without any fat in the diet we would just shrivel up and dry out, and who wants that? Nobody.