Presto Pesto

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The saying about only appreciating things when you don’t have them – so true.

When we moved to India, one of the biggest problems for me was getting used to the fact that lots of the fresh products I was used to getting in Singapore were just not available widely here. I mean, you can still get things like raspberries, blueberries, avocados and asparagus but you have to go to specialty ‘gourmet’ stores and they’re extremely overpriced. Things I had taken for granted like basil, I now relished.

But now that we’ve moved into our own house we have lots of fresh produce growing in our own garden! We have spinach, methi (fenugreek), basil, mini oranges…  So you would think that now I have an almost endless supply of fresh basil I would be using it 24/7. Right?

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But yeah… not so much. Since we’ve moved into the house (5 months) I think I’ve used basil approximately… 3 times. And in that time we have probably gone through 10-12 jars of store bought pesto. I know, I know. Disgraceful.

It’s just that the whole process seems like so much work. It’s easier to just buy a ready made jar and not think about it. But when I went out one day and saw that the basil plant was slowly drying up I decided it was time to change.

And I’m so glad I did! Making pesto is so easy – it takes practically 15 minutes and most of that time is spent getting the pesto out of the food processor! When you make your own pesto, you can alter the flavors to your liking and experiment with different nuts and even add in other herbs. Also the taste of fresh pesto exceeds store bought by a landslide!

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So no further ado.. here’s an amazing, customizable, pesto recipe inspired by love and lemons.

How to customize:

I always use 2/3 basil + 1/3 coriander because otherwise the basil flavor is a bit too strong, but feel free to use all basil or experiment with addition of other herbs like mint or arugula

For the nuts I used a combination of walnuts and almonds, but you can use any nuts – pistachios, hazelnuts, pecans.. Pine nuts are generally the best for pesto but I didn’t have any on hand 🙂

Add in some grated parmesan cheese, some nutritional yeast or a dash of balsamic vinegar for some extra kick. Most recipes also use black pepper but I prefer the taste without it. It’s a personal opinion though so if you like it – go for it!

Basil Pesto

(Makes around 1 cup)

  • 1 1/2 cup herbs
  • 1/4 cup nuts
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and paprika/chili flakes
  1. Lightly toast the nuts in a small plan until lightly browned
  2. Add all the ingredients in a food processor until well blended
  3. Taste and adjust the salt or acidity if necessary. If too sour, add a splash of honey or agave syrup.

Enjoy!

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Sesame & Peanut Crusted Tofu

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This is a great side dish to serve along with rice or vegetables or meat. It’s flavorful and hearty and really easy to make!

If you have time to marinade the tofu in the sauce, that would be highly recommended but if you’re pressed for time you can skip the marinading step and just dip the tofu in.

Serving size: 1-2 (easily double or triple the recipe for more servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 package tofu
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon coconut milk (optional, can replace with 1 tsp water and )
  • 1.5 tsp ginger paste/grated ginger
  • 1 tsp honey/agave (I used honey, if vegan you can use agave)
  • 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
  • pinch of chill powder/paprika
  • 3 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 3 tablespoon shelled and toasted peanuts
  • sesame/canola/olive oil (sesame is best)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • handful fresh coriander (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cut the tofu into square slices
  2. In a wide bowl, mix the soy sauce, coconut milk, honey, ginger and peanut butter well.
  3. Add the tofu pieces to the sauce and if you can, leave for 2-3 hours. Otherwise just move on to the next step.
  4. In an other bowl, crush the peanuts and sesame seeds.
  5. Heat a flat frypan, heat around 1-2 tsp oil and spread evenly
  6. Wait until the oil is hot
  7. Dip the tofu slices, one by one, in the crushed peanut-sesame mixture and then place on the pan. You can do 5-6 slices at a time.
  8. Pour some of the leftover sauce on top of the tofu slices and flip after around 30 seconds
  9. Cook until browned on both sides and then remove from pan.
  10. Top with fresh coriander, squeezed lemon juice and any leftover sauce or nuts
  11. Enjoy!

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Feta-Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

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The perfect little appetizer. Mushrooms stuffed with a flavorful and hearty mixture of feta, spinach, onion and spices. Great to serve at a party or if you want to make something special for dinner. It’s quite an easy recipe but it does take a bit of effort to scoop filling into each of the mushrooms, so be ready for a bit of time in the kitchen. But the end product is definitely worth it!

I used button mushrooms, but I think large, succulent portabella ones would be amazing! A great way to not waste the mushroom stems is to chop them finely and add them to the filling!

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounce mushrooms (around 15 mushrooms), washed and destemmed
  • 1.5 cups spinach, washed and chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or diced
  • 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1/2 tsp oregano, chilli flakes according to taste
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
     

Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celcius

Chop mushroom stems finely

Heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a pan

Add onion and garlic and sautee until browned

Add spinach, mushroom stems and spices and cook for a few minutes until cooked

Arrange mushroom caps on a baking tray and scoop around a tablespoon of filling into each (I like piling it quite high, but be careful as you’re doing this.)

Drizzle the remaining olive oil on top of the stuffed mushrooms

Bake for 20-25 minutes until mushrooms are browned

Vegetarian Larb!

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I adore Thai food. Growing up in singapore, I got access to lots of amazing, authentic Thai cuisine and needless to say, I fell in love. Some of my favorites are Som Tum (raw papaya salad, Phad Thai, Khao Na Pla (Honey Sesame Fish), Red Curry and of course… Larb.

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Larb is traditionally made with minced meat, onions, ginger, garlic lime juice, mint and fish sauce but I decided to give it my own twist. Taking inspiration from this recipe, I made a vegetarian larb by using grated tofu, thai chilli sauce, soy sauce and adding lettuce to make it more vibrant.

Tofu Larb

1 serving

Ingredients
1 tsp oil (sesame, canola, vegetable or olive oil would all work well)
4 cloves garlic
1/2 onion
2 tsp ginger
1 tsp lime/lemon juice
1 tablespoon thai chilli sauce
1/2-1 tablespoon soy sauce (depending on taste)
100 gram tofu
handful mint or coriander or basil (I used coriander)
2 lettuce leaf

Directions
Grate tofu into fine bits or if it’s soft, you could mash it with your hands.
Dice ginger, garlic and onion
Cut Lettuce into threads
Heat oil in a skillet
Add ginger, garlic and onion and cook until browned, stirring throughout
Add tofu, soy sauce and chilli sauce and mix everything well
Cook for a few minutes until tofu is cooked

Add herbs, lettuce and lime juice and mix everything well before serving

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