Conscious Cuisine: Pesto by Shaunee

Bowl of plant-based pesto (Source photo by Shaun Pennington)

One of my husband’s famous quotes is: “Shaun is a great cook, but often her meals come with a lecture.” A lecture will be found at the end of the recipe.

My grandson is and always has been what the two of us have decided to call a “specific” eater. I too am a “specific” eater, but our specifics are different. We both “don’t” eat very different things. Like, I don’t eat meat. He doesn’t eat tomatoes. We will leave further specifics at that.

The one dish we do have in common is pesto.

On one of his birthdays, maybe his 10th or 11th, we were having one of our adventures in New York City.

When it came time for lunch, he told me there was a special place he wanted to take me.

“They have the best pesto I’ve ever had,” he said.

OK then. So, I was shocked when we arrived at a plant-based restaurant on Bleeker Street in the west village called By Chloe. I said nothing.

Beautiful, fresh ingredients ready for vegan pesto. (Source photo by Shaun Pennington)

It was also an order-at-the-counter-and-wait-to-be-called takeout or hope to find a seat at a communal table type place. (Pre COVID, needless to say.)

Because it was Beckett’s birthday and we loudly proclaimed it to Robert, a kind of maître d’ if there is such a thing in this type of establishment, he graciously offered us a place to sit before we ordered and held it for us. He also took an extra step and delivered our pesto when our name was called.

It was the best pesto I too had ever eaten. Creamy, light and yummy. I wondered how she did it.

Four or five years ago Chloe’s generosity was evident in her posting of the recipe – along I suppose with all her recipes – online for anyone to use.

I found it easily. Avocado!!!! That’s how she did it. No cheese.

The recipes are gone, as is the Bleeker Street location and several others that I didn’t even know existed before they were gone. Sigh.

Meanwhile, I adapted her recipe to the Caribbean and my name, and shared it here.

– 1 pound brown rice pasta (the only one that I found that is like any other pasta is Tinkyada)
– Basil (I use three bags of the kind found at Fruit Bowl per one large Caribbean avocado – otherwise a big bunch of locally grown basil to taste)
– ½ cup pine nuts (I suppose you could use walnuts or other types of nuts, but I never have)
– 1 large green-skinned Caribbean avocado
– 3 cloves or more of garlic
– ½ cup olive oil
– juice from ½ lemon
– sea salt
– freshly ground pepper
– 1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half or sliced sun-dried tomatoes (optional)

Combine all the ingredients except pasta (seems obvious) and tomatoes (less obvious) in a food processor. Process until smooth.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta. If using Tinkyada, I cook for about two or three minutes less than suggested on the package. Drain. Put back in the pot and mix in the tomatoes allowing them to steam slightly. Add enough pesto to lightly coat the pasta. I have never used all of what you get from the above recipe in a pound of pasta. Half would still be a lot. You can freeze the rest for another day.

Serves four people with big appetites nicely.

The Lecture:
Avocados are considered a true superfood. High in potassium, magnesium, fiber and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, they are also anti-inflammatories, which could not be more important in the age of COVID-19. Intense reactions to the virus as well as the vaccine are linked to inflammation.

According to the National Institutes of Health database PubMed, avocados also contain carotenoids and tocopherols, which are linked to reduced cancer risk.

Doctors are learning that one of the best ways to reduce inflammation lies not in the medicine cabinet, but in the refrigerator.
Harvard Health Medical School