(Video and recipe below)
I first made pesto with cashews while I was living in Burkina Faso.
I did a lot of gardening and basil was one of my best growing crops. Given the nice warm climate my basil took off and I had a row of two and half foot tall bushy basil plants.
And what do you do with so much basil? Make pesto of course.
Pine nuts, however, were a bit of a problem. I managed to locate pine nuts in a Western-style super market but they were extremely expensive. I wasn’t about to spend $10 on a tiny little bag of pine nuts.
What was my solution? Cashews – which were grown locally and could be purchased for $4 a kilogram (2.2 pounds for all the non-metric folks).
With cashews, garlic, olive oil, salt and a ton of basil, I set out to make some pesto in my village. I didn’t have a food processor though, or even electricity for that matter.
How was I going to turn all my ingredients into a tasty creamy pesto? The old fashioned way, using a giant mortar and pestle paired with brute force.
The mortar I used weighed about as much as I do and had a 20 lb. matching pestle. Talk about a workout.
With such mortar and pestle, local women could pound grain for an hour using one arm while doing other chores with their free hand. Given this plus all the other manual labor these women did, I was hesitant to ever cross them the wrong way for fear of being crushed. The men, however, were about as scary as a jelly doughnut – ok, maybe I am generalizing a bit.
It took me nearly half an hour of pounding to reduce my ingredients to a paste and my arms to gelatin.
What I ended up with was absolutely amazing.
The cashews add an extra richness to the pesto that just can’t be met with pine nuts and I had no need for the addition of parmesan or romano cheese.
I don’t see myself ever making pesto with pine nuts again, especially that I can now make it in a matter of minutes given the wonders of a food processor.
How do I like to use my cashew basil pesto? I haven’t found a bad way yet. I’d eat it by the spoonful if I wouldn’t feel disgusted with myself afterwards.
On zucchini pasta, however, cashew basil pesto is a sure bet. The lightness of the zucchini pasta provides an excellent medium for the fatty pesto and makes a truly hearty meal.
I don’t think you’ll be disappointed – if you want to enjoy it even more, use a mortar and pestle and break a bit of a sweat for you meal, but a food processor works just fine too.
- 1 cup basil
- 3/4 cup roasted cashews
- 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 4 medium zucchini
- Add basil, garlic, and cashews to food processor. Chop.
- Add a hefty pinch of salt and blend on low while drizzling in olive oil.
- Using a julienne peeler, julienne zucchini into long thin strips.
- Stop at the seedy core. You can use these left over cores in a stir fry.
- Add a two pinches of salt to the zucchini and let sit for 10 minutes. After ten minutes, ring out excess moisture from the zucchini by placing the peeled and salted zucchini in a kitchen towel and squeezing.
- Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet to medium high. Add zucchini and cook through.
- Add cashew basil pesto, mix evenly, heat completely, and serve.