This morning, I had the intense craving for something flavorful, truly flavorful. And then it popped into my mind: homemade cilantro pesto. Yes. I love making my own pesto and with all the possibilities and variations, you'll see what I mean. I'm a no-dairy girl, so for now, I make my pestos sans parmesan. I hear you squawking already, but trust me, babycakes, you will not miss the dairy. And I do not miss the runny nose and phlegm. Nice image, huh?
Sorry about that.
Okay, onto the deliciousness. So let's start with how to make your own homemade pesto and how to play with it. Pesto is crazy simple, but with one very important lesson I learned early on: let it sit and all the flavors intermingle for at least one hour, otherwise the taste will not impress you.
In one hour, I guarantee, it will.
Refrigerate it, leave it on the counter, I don't care, but do it. It's important. The first time I made my own basil pesto and tasted it thinking it would taste like the pesto we all know and love, I was wrong. The basil was bitter and broken and the flavors felt separated. Once the one hour mark rolled around (and I actually read the recipe telling me to do so), it was like heaven in a little green goop. Hence, they need time to meet and greet one another. Give them that chance and like any marriage made in heaven, the outcome will be that much sweeter. Guaranteed.
Okay, so onto how to actually make pesto with a recipe courtesy of one of my favorite food bloggers, Karina's Kitchen - http://www.glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.com/ .
Homemade Delicious Vegan Pesto
2 cups, washed, loosely packed stemmed fresh herbs- basil, cilantro, parsley, mint
1/2 cup shelled pecans, walnuts or almonds
2 cloves fresh garlic
1/4 to 1/2 cup good tasting extra virgin olive oil, as needed
Sea salt, to taste
Combine the fresh herbs, nuts, and garlic in a food processor and process the mixture until it turns into a coarse meal. Slowly add extra virgin olive oil in a steady drizzle as you pulse the processor on and off. Process until it becomes a smooth, light paste. Add enough olive oil to keep it moist and spreadable. Season with sea salt, to taste.
Cover and store chilled for at least an hour to saturate the flavors. I like to pour a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil over the top to help keep it bright green.
Makes roughly a rounded cup.
The great thing about pesto is you can make it any way you like it and freeze it for up to a year. And on top of that it's super cheap to make, super nutritious and the flavor packs a punch that most other sauces only wish they could. It's a great alternative to traditional cream or tomato based sauces. And it is sooooo good! Someone suggested freezing them in little ice cube trays so you can make single serving portions and don't have to cut off a small amount from a huge block. Sounds like a good idea, although I haven't tried this. My pesto doesn't make it past the fresh stage. It's gone long before I can freeze it. A good friend of mine likes to make hers in giant batches then freeze it in sandwich size freezer bags for the winter. Also sounds great. Do what pleases you.
Okay, now that you've taken the time to let the herbs get to know the olive oil and nuts of choice, we will get on with making a sandwich that you will want to cry over. It's that good.
Just an FYI: I made this pesto with walnuts, one of my favs. Gives it sort of a creamy texture. But feel free to use whatever makes you happy.
Turkey Sausage Panini with Cilantro Pesto and Caramelized Onions
Serves 1 (or double or triple this for family and friends!)
¼ cup sliced red or white onions
1 tsp honey
3-4 ¼ inch slices turkey sausage or turkey polska kielbasa (pre-cooked), cut to length of bread
2 slices gluten-free Millet bread by Food for Life (or any bread of choice, gluten-free or not)
1 tbsp Vegenaise grapeseed oil mayonnaise (or mayo of choice)
2 tbsp cilantro pesto (or pesto of choice)
Salt to taste
Panini Press, George Foreman Grill, or Toaster
Place onions in a hot skillet with a little olive oil on medium heat. Add a dash of salt and stir. Let onions sweat for about 5 minutes or until almost translucent. Add honey and stir. Leave onions to caramelize for about another 4 minutes or so, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
Place sausage slices in same pan with onions and allow to brown on both sides, about 2-3 minutes, flipping as needed.
Preheat Panini press (medium heat) or mini-grill. If you don’t have one of these, you can use a toaster to get the desired crunchy effect. Just toast bread before assembling.
Add half the mayo to each slice of bread, then layer half the pesto on top of the mayo. Spread pesto evenly around, coating each inch to maximize deliciousness. Place sausage slices across one slice of bread and add caramelized onions on top. Place the remaining slice of bread, pesto side down on top of first slice to complete the sandwich.
Place the sandwich on the hot Panini press or grill and grill for approximately 3-5 minutes, or until bread starts to crisp on the outside and press marks can be seen. Remove from heat and enjoy!