I love Basil.
Every year I attempt to grow multiple basil plants, and the Texas Sun and local wildlife quickly reduces it to scraggly, scrawny, woody stems without a single leaf free from sun damage or bug-bite. But this year, for the FIRST TIME EVER, I hit Basil Paydirt! I had basil coming out my ears!
Suddenly, I realized that between my two jobs, food blog, family and community obligations- the basil had gotten away from me! I awoke to a familiar scent in the air that indicated the weather was about to “turn”, and my basil’s viable days were numbered. Fearing I would never again grow a successful basil plant, I frantically developed an action plan to utilize my Basil Bounty for the months to come.
When I start a new ferment I prefer to add a little “mojo” from an already established brew. Because my fermentation kick started a couple of months ago, I just HAPPENED to have several batches of fermented garlic bubbling away.
Naturally, I wanted to use my fermented garlic to preserve my pesto.
This is totally optional.
You can use fresh, raw garlic and it will eventually ferment in the brine within the pesto.
Also, you can use the pesto immediately, rather than waiting for it to ferment. It is your journey 😉
*Do research about hygiene, contamination and possible risks of fermenting foods. Weigh the benefits of probiotics and fermented foods vs the possible hazards. Make informed decisions. This is merely a recipe that I enjoy and the methods I use. Proceed at your own risk.
Fermented Sweet Basil and PumpkinSeed Pesto
(makes 3 pints)
6 cups basil leaves (packed)
1/2 cup fermented garlic and brine
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 Tbs dried hijiki seaweed (optional)
3 Tbs sea salt
4 cups filtered/purified/non-chlorinated water
Separate all the basil leaves from the stems. Thoroughly rinse (being careful not to bruise them), and then spread on an absorbent surface to dry. If you are pressed for time you may choose to gently pat the leaves dry with a clean towel.
Pulse the raw pumpkinseeds in your food processor/blender until they are a coarse meal. Set aside.
Finely mince/food process the garlic. Add it to the pumpkin seeds.
Divide the clean, dry basil into smaller batches (1 ½ cups -2 cups each). Load it into the blender/ food processor, and pulse until it is finely chopped, but has not become a paste (if you overfill the device it will turn the basil to mush. Don’t crowd the basil). As each batch gets uniformly chopped, add it to the pumpkinseed mixture.
Add the seaweed and gently stir all ingredients to evenly combine.
Mix sea salt into the filtered water until it is completely absorbed. If you boiled the water to remove the chlorine or to dissolve the salt, allow the water to COMPLETELY COOL before proceeding (this is your “brine”)
Pack your CLEAN glass containers with the basil mixture, stopping at least 1 inch from the top of the jar.
Pour the brine into the jars, stopping no closer than 1 inch from the top. Gently tap the jars against your work surface to help the brine flow all the way to the bottom of the jar, and to release any air pockets.
Reserve any excess brine to add to the jars as the contents settle.
Apply the lids and store the jars at room temperature, in the dark, for 3-5 days. You should be able to see small bubbles forming in the pesto.
Once the pesto is fermenting, transfer the jars to the refrigerator. Pesto will “keep” for several months.
*I suggest opening the pesto over the sink, held away from your clothes. It can get fizzy and spray you with yummy garlic froth!
**In order to preserve all the nutritional benefits of the live bacteria, do not heat the pesto. Add it to warm dishes as the final ingredient, shortly before serving.
***as a sauce or spread: mix fermented pesto with olive oil in a 1:1 ratio right before consumption.
I love Cheese!
AND I love learning skills that would be useful in a Zombie Apocalypse.
Do my daydreams of life in a Zompocalypse involve meals with cheese?
Yes. Yes they do.
I present to you:
2 cups kefir (or plain greek yogurt with live enzymes)
¼ cup Fermented Sweet Basil & Pumpkinseed Pesto (liquid pressed out)
Instructions (Part 1):
Place a fine mesh, non-metal strainer over a container. Line the strainer with a basket style coffee filter.
Pour the kefir (or yogurt) into the filter.
Cover to prevent buggies and dust from getting into it, and allow to sit undisturbed at room temperature for 24-48 hours.
The whey will have separated and dripped down, leaving the soft kefir-cheese in the coffee filter. Store the whey in a glass container in the fridge for future projects.
Scrape the cheese from the coffee filter into a non-reactive bowl. (you should have approximately 1 cup of cheese)
Instructions (Part 2):
Line a medium sized bowl with a CLEAN, DRY cloth or “tea towel”. Set aside.
Stir ¼ cup of the strained fermented pesto into the cheese.
Scrape the herby, cheesy mixture into the center of the tea towel. Tap the bowl against your work surface to get the cheese to settle and work out the bubbles.
Draw the corners of the towel together and loosely gather the fabric over the cheese to enclose the cheese WITHOUT SQUEEZING IT.
Use rubber bands or twine to suspend the bundle over the sink or a container for another 24-48 hrs.
The cheese should have become much more solid during suspention. If you choose, you can eat/serve the cheeseball at this time.
Instructions for long-term storage:
Roll portions of the cheese into 1-2 Tbs balls.
Gently place the balls into a glass jar. Leave at least 1 inch “headroom”.
Fill the jar with Extra Virgin Olive, making sure the cheese is completely covered.
You can refrigerate the jar, or store it in a room temperature pantry. The many civilizations that utilize these methods of preservation claim the cheeseballs should be safe for consumption for 1-2 years!
*once you have eaten all the cheese you can reuse the olive oil for cooking, salad dressing, or to preserve another batch of kefir cheese balls 🙂
**a reminder about probiotics and fermentation
Fermentation makes food’s nutrients more accessible. Naturally fermented foods help restore and rebuild your internal ecosystem. There are many studies and testimonials about the amazing benefits of probiotics. Whether you believe it will cure your allergies, mood disorder, cellulite, etc., or maybe you think it’s all a bunch of “hooey”… but you should know this: Heat will Kill the Beneficial Bacteria. The cooked food will still have NUTRIENTS, but it won’t have LIVE BACTERIA anymore. If you have your heart set on a hot dish with fermented ingredients, I recommend adding them LAST, and not during the cooking process (e.g. sprinkle the cheese on a cooked pizza right before you serve it.)
My casual research of Pho has lead me to understand that “pho” actually refers to the noodles, and not the broth/seasonings. My Sloppy Pho gives a nod to the broth flavors, the typical garnishes, and utilizes vegi-noodles (rather than traditional rice noodles) in an unconventional manner.
There are many gizmos out there for transforming vegetables into “noodles”. Some of them are quite spendy and sturdy, for the serious rawtarians and veg-oodling fanatics. There are also inexpensive “As-Scene-on-TV” devices that do a passable job for the casual vegi-noodle maker. I think it would be really fun to have one of the psycho-serious models, but I am able to make-do with a cheezy hand-held tool I picked up for $8 at a discount retail store.
Without further ado, I give you:
the “Slop” Ingredients
1 cup water
2 star anise pods
4 cardamom pods
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cloves
4 cloves garlic (minced)
1/2 Tbs ginger (minced)
1 1/2 cups shiitake mushrooms (chopped)
2 cups portabella mushrooms (chopped)
1/2 cup Thai Basil (packed)
3 jalapeños (seeded and diced)
3 cups red cabbage (chopped)
2 cups Mung bean sprouts
1Tbs psyllium husks
1/4 cup pumpkinseed flour
1/3 cup chia meal
1 ½ cups water
2Tbs lime juice
If you have a tea strainer or a cheesecloth sack, place the star anise, cardamom, and cloves inside. If not, just leave them loose (but you will have to fish them out later.) Put these ingredients and 1 cup water in a saucepan and simmer for 10-5 minutes.
Remove the spices.
Transfer this liquid to a large skillet and add 1 Tbs Quoc Viet Vegetarian Soup base, minced garlic, minced ginger, and mushrooms.
In a separate container, combine chia meal, 1 ½ cups water, 1 Tbs Quoc Viet Vegetarian Soup base and lime juice. Let sit for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to keep chia from clumping. It should thicken into gelatinous sauce.
During this time cook the mushrooms uncovered on medium heat, until liquid has been absorbed, mushrooms have reduced and are starting to brown.
Add all remaining ingredients to the skillet and gently stir to evenly combine. Cook very briefly, until cabbage and bean sprouts are slightly softened and colors have brightened.
Remove from heat.
The “Noodles” Ingredients:
2 sweet potatoes
1 Tbs Chili Garlic Oil (or regular, boring Olive Oil)
Peel the sweet potatoes and use your preferred vegi-noodle-making-method. Toss “noodles” and oil in a skillet on medium-high heat until sweet potatoes are an al dente texture and bright orange (6-8 minutes.) Remove from heat.
Serve the Sloppy Pho with fresh cilantro, radish pickles and sriracha mayo.
*you can buy pre-fab sriracha mayo or make your own vegan version by blending vegan mayo and sriracha in a 2:1 ratio
My friend Chervyn is so much tech-savvier than me, and she has coached me somewhat through making a spreadsheet of the nutritional value of these components!
You COULD wrap it up in a butter lettuce leaf for a ridiculously flavorful and hearty vegan, low carb treat.
OR serve it on a multi grain bun and make everyone jealous of your Oompa Loompa Lunch!
OR transform your Sweet Potato Noodles into a BUN!!! (recipe below)
Sweet Potato Noodle Bun
I found this recipe for a healthier “ramen bun” and it was like the clouds parted and I heard choirs of preadolescent cherubs singing… it is FanF*ckingTastic. I don’t own what the author is selling (as previously mentioned), but the recipe is so good that I was almost tempted to splurge 😉
I was a little shocked when I tallied up the carbs and calories, so I thought “we can do better than this!”
I made a couple of modifications and I am also providing a vegan option. The flax meal and psyllium not only increase the fiber content, but they allow me to stretch this recipe to make 3 whole buns (6 pieces).
1 large sweet potato
1 tsp garlic powder
2 Tbs flax meal soaked in 4 Tbs water (OR 1 egg + 1 Tbs flax meal + 2 Tbs water)
1 Tbs psyllium husk
2 tsp preferred cooking oil
Peel your sweet potato and use your preferred method of turning it into long, fettuccini-like noodles.
Heat a medium skillet with a teensy bit of oil and toss in the “noodles”. Keep them moving. You are essentially just trying to heat them enough for them to turn bright orange and soften to al dente texture (6-8 minutes). Transfer the “noodles” to a large mixing bowl and remove the skillet from the heat.
Sprinkle the psyllium over the “noodles” and toss to evenly distribute. Pour the gooey flax mixture (or eggy flax mixture) over the “noodles” and gently toss (try not to mush or mangle the sweet potato).
Divide the mixture evenly between 6 ramekins (or equivalent) and gently press down into a flat patty. Place a piece of wax paper or parchment paper over the opening of the ramekin and set a jar or can on top to apply pressure to the sweet-potato-noodle-disc.
Place ramekins in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes to cool and to “set up.”
After 15-20 minutes, gently turn ramekins onto lightly oiled skillet and remove ramekins (leaving the perfectly formed discs on the skillet). DO NOT CROWD. You need to have room to get a spatula flat beneath them periodically to check their progress. Set burner on medium-low heat.
Once the discs are nicely toasted on one side, carefully flip them over and toast the other side. They need to be a little seared to hold together.
Place them on a cooling rack or on a clean, dry towel to cool.
*If using egg recipe rather than the vegan version, cover the skillet once you are cooking the second side of the discs to ensure the egg gets all the way cooked (this is less crucial in the vegan version).
**these “buns” are a little mushy. They hold together great for the Sloppy Pho sandwich, but once you take a bite, everything is kind of the same texture. If you want them to be more “bread like”, place in the food dehydrator on 130 degrees for a couple of hours, or closely monitor them on the lowest setting in your oven.
*** make sure “buns” are totally cool before storing them in an air-tight container in the fridge.
I have created a handy-dandy chart to compare the different presentations for the Sloppy Pho.
But if you still aren’t satisfied, throw that sh*t in a jar and eat it as a salad! 😉