Vegan Red Pepper Pesto with Zucchini “Noodles”

#RecipeUpTop (details below):

  • 1 Red Bell Pepper;
  • 1 Tomato;
  • 2 cloves of garlic;
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil;
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts;
  • Salt (to taste);
  • Balsamic vinegar (to taste);
  • Sugar (optional; to taste);
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flake (optional; to taste);
  • 4 zucchini (for the noodles, optional)

Method: Quarter the tomato, keeping the seeds and gelatin intact, and rough-chop the red pepper, removing the seeds and membrane. Crush the garlic. Add all three to a saucepot with a little oil and a healthy pinch of salt, and cook over low heat until softened (if using crushed red pepper, add that as well). Add a small amount of water, and cook until the veggies are completely softened, and the water has largely cooked off. Move to a blender or food processor, add the pine nuts, and blend. While the machine is running, drizzle in the remaining oil to desired level, tasting often. Adjust with sugar (if necessary) and balsamic vinegar. Serve over traditional pasta or veggie noodles. Garnish with red pepper flake and parsley or basil (optional)

Details

A while back, in the BEFORE TIMES, the 10Chickens household realized we were at a loss when it came to cooking vegetarian, let alone vegan.

Well, we’ve been practicing.

We still try to go vegan two (2) days a week to balance out the rest of our lifestyle, and further we’ve tried to embrace the actual spirit of that endeavor after it became apparent that I was quickly finding every food-loophole possible. Garlic and olive oil pasta with garlic bread? Well, that’s vegan. Beer-battered onion rings with spicy ketchup and honey-roasted peanuts? You get the point.

Anyway, eventually the pendulum swung the other direction for a bit, and we found ourselves eating raw veg with lemon juice and quietly contemplating various crimes of violence.

Thus, from necessity and perseverance, we’ve arrived at a happy medium. A place where we have a stable of really, really tasty and satisfying vegan dishes that make our two days a week bearable.

This sauce is creamy without dairy. It’s full-bodied and velvety without meat or animal fat. It’s toasty, but tangy and crisp in the way good, fresh vegetables should be.

Step one: Break down your veg.

This is it. One tomato, one red pepper, and two cloves of garlic. Good news here, rough chop is the word of the day:

Important thing here is to keep the seeds and gelatin (I use that term loosely) in the tomato, as they’re going to add some good body to the final sauce.

The reason a rough chop works is because this is all going into a saucepot, and cooking down with a little oil and some salt over low heat, roughly ten (10) minutes. If you like a little heat (I do), add some crushed red pepper flake.

Once the vegetables have softened and given up a good portion of their moisture, add a little water and boost the heat. The goal is to have a sort of stewed-mash with some thickened liquid:

This is a flavor bomb. It’s everything tomato and red pepper and garlic can possibly offer. It’ll make your whole house smell like the Olive Garden back when it was good.

Get it into a blender or food processor, and add your pine nuts. Blend up, and drizzle in your olive oil until it’s smooth and creamy, and light orange:

So, here’s the part where you get to COOK cook. Taste it. What does it need? Salt? Acid? Sweetness? All of these things are going to depend on the specific tomato and red pepper you used. They’re all different.

My two favorite adjustments here are balsamic vinegar and sugar.

I know there will be shrieks and pearl-clutching about the that sweet crystalline devil, but really if you even need it at all, it’s probably something like two (2) teaspoons at most. And, if you have a particularly acidic tomato, you may not have a choice. This is why we taste.

Anyway, doctor it up to your preference, and serve over your favorite pasta. Or, like me, you can use it as an excuse to buy a new toy:

This barbaric machine is a spiralizer, and I picked it up from the “internet rainforest store” for about $25.00. What’s it do? Well:

Also…. it makes curly fries. But, that’s not for vegan day.

These are just a few zucchini, washed, ends cut off, and run through the spiralizer. Steam these for five (5) minutes, and serve with your vegan red pepper pesto. Garnish with basil if you have it (I didn’t) and crushed red pepper flake if you want (I did). Laugh in the face of portion control, and go bonkers on your veggies.

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