Wookiee Hut Cuisine presents:
Non-abused Vegetable Flesh Pesto
by SuSu, MaceVindaloo
Menu: Herbs & Leaves Vegan Pesto | Pesto-lined Finger Sandwiches | Pesto & Tomato Foccacia | Pesto-Coated PastaHerbs and lettuces everywhere, and salads day in and day out can get really, really tedious. Even if you normally craved salad in a fresh-food deprived life. At least, that's what the crew of Serenity felt when they fell upon a job which paid them in fresh produce. But being as deprived as they normally are, they couldn't let it go to waste or to rot!
Fortunately, the companion Inara resided on the spaceboat and she had a great recipe for storing and using up fresh herbs: pesto! It's a simple paste where herbs are chopped with garlic, salt, oil, nuts, and cheese, which is served as a basic pasta sauce or spread.
However, though the crew had too many herbs and tender young salad leaves and garlic and oil, they did not have cheese, which was even more expensive than fresh greens. If you ask people who'd experienced parmagiana reggiano what it tastes like, they invariably use terms like "nutty" and "salty." Inara did have stashes of various kinds of nuts, and figured out that using two types of nuts would substitute for the nuts.
Even better, the recipe was vegan; as Shepherd Book would define it, "non-abused vegetable flesh only." No cheese, no meat. And though there is a lot of oil in it, each serving is quite small. And fat is where the flavor is!
It was also versatile, and many things benefited from this pesto. In fact, from a list of the same ingredients, several different dishes would result, making it an even better idea to keep pesto on hand for quick meals.
Herb & Leaf Vegan Pesto
Traditional "pesto" is a Genovese concoction of mashed basil, garlic, pine nuts, and oil, and it's said that Genoan sailors (Christopher Columbus was Genoan) raved about it to anyone who would listen. So this is the version most people refer to when they talk about pesto. But in truth, it can be made with any soft leafy, tasty green, and a mixture is very nice, as are a mixture of nuts. A bonus of this vegan version without the cheese, it freezes really well. You can add cheese after thawing, if you wish. A great way to store fresh commodities, even if they are not rare.
Inara liked to toast the nuts for extra flavor. It turned up the volume on the "experience" of the nuts to feel their aroma and warmth explode in front of your face as your senses "felt" the nuts ...
To store, place into ice cube trays or small cups. Press small pieces of plastic wrap directly and completely onto the surface of the pesto. Cover or place in an airtight container or freezer bag, refrigerate for a week, or freeze for up to a year.
The pesto can make really delicious sandwiches, whether as a condiment to enhance other ingredients, or just on its own. What other ingredients? It depends how "vegan" you and your guests feel. And the vibrant green color when its freshly made should be accentuated when its served (serve it on a red plate or napkin) for maximum impact. Shepherd Book said he felt "dirty" just taking one of these finger sandwiches. There's something naughty about the bright colors, the buzz of flavors, the delicious savoriness in something as apparently chaste as a finger sandwich!
One normal-sized loaf will make about 30 to 40 finger sandwiches.
Pesto & Tomato Focaccia
Bread, it's often been said, is the staff of life ... at least plain "normal" bread may be. It's something that will keep you alive, but for something that makes you want to BE alive, try this bread-cum-pizza. Be careful not to overcook it though like a love affair, it can go from hot, attractive, plump, and delicious to dry and past-its-prime quickly! (It's a lesson Inara would apply to any number of trainees ... let's not ask about the sensuality of kneading and rising dough!)
Roll out the dough, but be careful that it not be larger than the pizza stone or the pan you'll be baking the bread on. It will rise quite a bit, so be sure to make it thinner than you expect it to be. With your fingertips, press down to make random "divots" in the dough. Brush over with the pesto. Place tomato slices evenly over the surface of the focaccia, taking care not to overcrowd the pieces. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and drizzle over with olive oil and grated or shaved parmesan cheese (optional).
Place directly on the pizzastone if you're using one, or in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes or so, till the dough is puffed up and browned on the edges. The oil will bubble a bit, and the tomatoes will have dried and wrinkled up. Remove from the oven when the bottom is well browned, and cut into wedges or squares.
Makes about 10 servings.
Inara is not only a guild Companion, but a sensual woman in her own right ... which is maybe why she left the core world to ply her trade out in the black wilds of space, on a disreputable boat with choppy schedules. Her sybaritic appetites make her vulnerable to some things, like falling in love ... so to control herself, she might make a sensuous pasta or noodle dish. Something about the garlicky, flavorful, relatively dry but unctuous sauce clinging on the surface of the hot pasta satisfied her in a primal way ... so she was safe from her baser urgings ...
When the pasta is done, toss together the pesto and hot, steamy pasta, adding spoonfuls of pasta water to make the sauce thin enough to coat the pasta. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve onto awaiting plates, and grate parmesan cheese over the service, if desired.
Serves 4 as dinner, up to 8 or 10 as a side dish or appetizer course.
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