I love pesto! I mean I could eat it right by itself with a spoon. But, it is also great on pasta, and chicken, and salmon, and just about anything. The trouble with pesto is that it usually contains nuts and my daughter is allergic to nuts. When I say allergic, I don’t mean she sneezes or gets a little itchy. I mean eating nuts involves shots of epinephrine, so when she is home from college (like now for summer), we don’t eat nuts. So, I decided to try making pesto with sunflower seeds. And, wow, you really can’t tell the difference between regular pesto and sunflower pesto. I mean maybe you could if you were eating them side-by-side, but just to take a bite, it tastes the same! Yay!
Guess what? These is another great thing about sunflower pesto. It is sooooo much less expensive than pesto made with pine nuts. Pine nuts are really expensive! So, even if you are not allergic to pine nuts, sunflower seeds are a much more economical option. Of course, if you prefer pine nuts or some other nut, feel free to substitute.
On a side note, if you live in the southern United States or Mexico and are growing your own basil, I want to caution you to beware of the the green lynx! The green lynx is a harmless, possibly even helpful spider, that is just the bright green color of basil and is particularly scary looking with spines all over its legs. I do not like spiders. So, when the basil started crawling on my hand, and I realized it was spider, I was… upset. Somehow, I managed to get it back on the sprig of basil I had in my hand, and throw it out the back door. But, being in a hurry to do so, and having not only my crazy sheltie, but also the grand dog we were babysitting for the week, I managed to set off quite a barking spell that had Steve coming in from the garage to see what was going on. Now, he had assumed it to be a dog issue, since we have had several of those this week. But, being that it was just a spider, he retrieved the sprig of basil for me. I know he thinks I am crazy, but of all the creatures out there, spiders are the creepiest to me. Hands down. Snakes are not even close. So, watch out for the green lynx.
Back to the pesto. It is my usual pesto recipe with sunflower seeds substituted for the pine nuts. I am not sure where I originally got the recipe, but it has been tweaked a lot over the years. It makes a very thick pesto, so if you want it thinner, just add a little more olive oil. Also, it does turn brown rather quickly. The lemon juice helps with that a little, but it is still going to turn a little brown. But, it still tastes great, and if you stir it up, it will look bright green again at least for the first day. I stirred this up quite a bit while taking photos. Eventually, it will turn a dark brownish green like the canned kind, but it is still fine to use for several days. I’m not sure what the experts would say on shelf life, but I refrigerate it and continue to use it for about five days.
- 4 cups packed basil
- the juice of one lemon
- 2 clove garlic – You don’t need to chop them because they are going in the food processor.
- 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Place all ingredients except olive oil in the food processor fitted with the knife blade.
- Process until pureed. You may need to scrape down the sides a few times.
- Remove the tube in the top and slowly drizzle in the olive oil while the food processor is running.
- Serve as desired.