Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Vegan Pesto with Pepitas

 I have to say, San Diego is full of hidden gems. It's good to be home for a while.
This past weekend, as Ryan was finishing out the 10 day master cleanse, my mom and I found ourselves poking around in the corridors of a restaurant supply store, shopping for rice noodles and fresh coconut at 99 Ranch, the biggest pan-Asian supermarket in San Diego, and eating fluffy uttapam and paper-thin dosa in Little India. While there, we tucked into Bombay Bazaar for some Indian staples, and finished up the day with a stop at a place called "The Fruit Stand". It was a fun day, completely centered around the subject of food. So much for me doing a "cleanse" at this juncture...

The restaurant supply store was fun. There are two on the same block. One is always closed on weekends, but F.S.E., Inc. is open on Saturdays. Most of their products really are for industrial kitchens, but they do carry some fun stuff, including cheap fiestaware and other fun dishes. You'll probably see pictures of some of them with food in them on this blog, at some point. This is one of those hidden gem-poke around and maybe you'll strike gold types of places.

me mum with our loot

If you live in or are visiting San Diego, I highly recommend a visit to the Indian shopping center known as Little India, on Black Mountain Road just off Miramar Road. In Little India, you will find several Indian eateries, a yoga/meditation center, a Hindu temple, a large grocery store, a bank, a travel agent, and a fantastic clothing store/herbal beauty salon that will thread your eyebrows for $9. (I can fully recommend the services.)

While there, we ate lunch at Cafe Madras, an unpretentious eatery that has a South Indian menu of dosa, idli, and uttapams, which are a thick dosa-like pancake that has pieces of cilantro, tomato and onions studded throughout. And just like a restaurant of its ilk in India, each table had stainless steel cups and pitchers of water already set. It was tasty and the dosas were proper. I have had better sambar, but considering that two months ago I didn't even know what sambar was, I'll cut them some slack. For those of you who don't know, sambar is a ubiquitous lentil soup that is always served with dosa, idli, utthapam, and wada, alongside coconut chutney. Usually sambar is highly spiced and very flavorful. There was also an all you can eat buffet that included an endless stream of waiters bringing more dosas and idli as long as the person was eating. Next time! I had the vegetable utthapam and my mom had a masala dosa. I love this simple, classic, traditionally gluten free food. In fact, I think that dosa is one of the greatest things on earth. It is a food with immense potential.

After lunch, eyebrows, and a general stocking up of Indian groceries, we headed over to The Fruit Stand. This is a really cute place that sells mostly local and organic (and pesticide free) produce at very good prices. It is just south of the Costco on Morena. We bought fresh organic basil, and at $1 per bunch, how can I not make pesto? 

This recipe is an old standard of mine. I first learned to make pesto similar to this when I was a teenager working in a café downtown San Diego. We used walnuts instead of expensive pine nuts, and we used parmesan cheese. These days, I replace the parmesan with nutritional yeast, and use whatever nuts I want. I am particularly fond of pepitas, or pumpkin seeds. If you have a food processor, then this recipe is super quick and easy. Simply pinch the leaves off the basil stems, toss everything in the FP, and blend away. You want a textured pureé, not a smooth pureé. This is why the FP is better to use than a blender. I have read that proper, true pesto is best made with a mortar and pestle, but I would be surprised if very many of you were going to that route. This pesto is excellent with on a bagel or toast with fresh tomato slices. It is also great as a pasta sauce or on a pizza. I like to have it on hand all summer for all my pesto needs. Whenever I can get my hands on fresh basil, you know I've got pesto in the fridge.

Basil Pesto With Pepitas
(makes about 1 cup)
  • 4 cups loosely packed basil leaves (no stems)
  • 1/2 cup pepitas or pumpkin seeds (walnuts or pine nuts will work as well)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
Whirl in a food processor until it reaches your desired texture. If it seems too dry, slowly drizzle in more olive oil. If it seems too oily, toss in another handful of nuts (or more basil). Adjust for salt and pepper.
You could also add olives for a tapenade-pesto blend, or sun-dried tomatoes for another flavor alltogether. Sometimes I make it spicy...


  1. t have a lot of pepitas and a lot of basil,so I thought that I'd find a recipe for pesto. I found one. I am worried that it might not be as good as the parsely and pepita combination I've seen. I have some parsley in my garden that just started to grow so I will try some of that too. Any thoughts-Nate

  2. Parsley and pepitas would be tasty! But if you want relatively classic pesto then you need Basil. When I make parsley pesto I like to brighten it up with lemon juice too. Let me know how you liked it!

  3. Parsley and pepitas would be tasty! But if you want relatively classic pesto then you need Basil. When I make parsley pesto I like to brighten it up with lemon juice too. Let me know how you liked it!