Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Buddhist-friendly Basil Pesto Sauce with Pinenuts

Flavorful Garlic-free Pesto Sauce keeps your breath fresh and your Buddhist/素食者 friends happy!

Su (素) vegetarians refrain from garlic, onions, chives, leeks, spring onions, (and I think shallots/rakkyo too, thought it's sometimes lumped in with 'onion' -- from a botanical standpoint it's just everything in the allium Family), referred to as the 5 Pungent Spices, because they are believed to induce imbalance in the body and mind (source). This type of vegetarianism is mostly found in China and Vietnam and is associated with the Buddhist faith. However, not all Buddhists follow this diet, and not all Su vegetarians (素食者) are Buddhist.

It's interesting to note that, in Taiwan at least, whether something is Su is primarily determined by the absence of the 5 plants aforementioned, as opposed to whether or not it contains eggs or milk. Some Su vegetarians are vegan (全素), while lacto (奶素) is the common assumption (usually when something is labeled Su it's lacto), although lacto-ovo is the most popular (蛋奶素). As an aside, Taiwan has some KICKASS labeling laws for Su vegetarians! It's similar to whether something can be labeled Kosher or Pareve in the U.S. Makes finding foodstuff SO MUCH EASIER. Also, most restaurants label their menus with whether something is vege. It's awesome.

Anyway, I thought Su vege was pretty bonkers at first, but after trying it for a while I guess it's pretty chill. I mean, I don't have to worry about having onion breath. Ever. :D Also, I discovered this awesome thing called Toon, which is used a lot in Su cooking to replace onion because it's DELICIOUS. More on that later. ^_^

There is no picture because I fail at photographing food :D

In a Vita-Mix, combine the following:

1/4 C. pine-nuts (or walnuts, or almonds, or other tree nut, 'cause pine-nuts are friggin' expensive)
1-3 C. olive oil
2-3 oz. pungent cheese, optional. I used sharp cheddar. For more authentic flavor you probably want parmesan reggiano or something similar.
3 C. PACKED basil leaves. I used sweet/Thai basil, 'cause it's what we have, but if you want a more authentic Italian flavour use normal Mediterranean basil. Or whatever it's called.
~1 T. lemon juice or vinegar, to taste
Salt to taste, optional

Blend until creamy and delicious.

Alternatively, if you like bits in your pesto, blend everything except the basil, then toss it in at the last minute so you get chunks. I like creamy better :)

Serve atop carb of choice


Oh wait, there was a picture, and it was HORRIBLE:

It tastes 10,00000000000 times better than it looks in this picture. I promise.