Roasted eggplant gives this vegan pesto a hint of smoky flavor while sun-dried tomatoes add a bright, tangy spark of flavor.
This week on the FatFreeVegan Facebook page, I’ve been offering my suggestions for Fourth of July dishes–salads that transport well, veggie burgers you can make ahead and heat on the grill, etc. You can add a pasta salad tossed with this aromatic pesto to the list of foods you can bring and that everyone–vegan and non-vegan, health enthusiasts and hedonists–will enjoy.
Traditional pesto combines basil with olive oil and, often, cheese, and vegan versions usually replace the cheese with nuts but keep the olive oil. As an oil-free vegan (OFV), I’m constantly looking for new ways to get the zesty basil and garlic flavor of pesto without the olive oil. I’ve made pesto with silken tofu, asparagus, white beans, and artichokes instead of oil with varying levels of success (asparagus is the prettiest, artichoke is the least flavorful), but I think I’ve hit on a new favorite. Though not the most attractive oil-alternative, roasted eggplant gives this pesto a hint of smoky flavor without overwhelming the other ingredients and makes a sauce whose consistency is more like traditional pesto than any of my other versions. Ground almonds and a little nutritional yeast supply a hint of cheesiness, and sun-dried tomatoes add a bright, tangy spark of flavor.
The recipe makes a good bit, so plan to use it for several days in different ways. Add it to pasta and toss in fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, and other vegetables for a delicious pasta salad that you can serve cold or at room temperature. It’s also a delicious spread for bread; spread it on a hearty whole-grain bread as a substitute for garlic bread or to perk up a sandwich (try it with Italian sausages–you will not be disappointed!) And this may sound odd, but I tossed a little with some chickpeas for a tasty, albeit messy, snack. A little goes a long way, so don’t be afraid to freeze the leftovers for later use.
- 1 large eggplant
- 1/4 cup whole raw almonds
- 2 sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 cups basil leaves, lightly packed
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- salt to taste
- Preheat oven to 400F. Trim off and discard the stem end of eggplant and cut in half lengthwise. Place cut-side down on a baking sheet lined with a silicone liner or parchment paper. Pierce the backs of the eggplant with a fork in a few places. Bake until completely soft and somewhat collapsed, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. This can be done ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- At least 2 hours before using (and up to overnight), place almonds in a bowl and cover completely with water. Allow to soak at room temperature. Drain water before using.
- Put the almonds, sun-dried tomatoes, and garlic into food processor and pulse to chop. Peel the eggplant and add it, the basil, and the nutritional yeast to the processor and process to a coarse puree. Add salt to taste and pulse to blend.
- Add a tablespoon to a serving of warm pasta (if the pesto is too thick to easily coat the pasta, add a little hot water to it), or use as a spread for bread or a dip for crackers or vegetables. Store in a covered container. For best color, either press a sheet of plastic wrap onto the exposed surface or spray with a light film of olive oil.