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pinchin’ pennies, and pesto

8 June 2011

The hardest part about strict budgeting, I think, is maintaining ordinary social relationships with other humans. I’m perfectly happy to never eat out, or go places that require spending money, or drink beer(s, as the case may be, particularly when philosophers are involved); however, turns out that most if not all opportunities for, say, hanging out with friends, revolve around these kinds of transactions. So it’s either turn into a total recluse (which, if we’re being honest here, is kinda the endpoint of my life trajectory anyway), or spend money that I don’t have and feel guilty about it.

Case in point. Last night some friends and I were planning to spend the evening at our favorite local beer + pizza joint. Way back when I got a regular paycheck, we’d go on Fridays after teaching+colloquia and sit around outside in the back patio for hours. I’d split a small veggie pizza — minus cheese/sauce, plus hummus and artichoke hearts — with my vegan friend, and sip a glass of almost-affordable-during-happy-hour wine, and it was perfect. Recently, though, I’ve just been going for the company and sipping on excessive quantities of free water. Not ideal, especially because I get cranky when I’m hungry and even crankier when I’m hungry and haven’t had any wine.

But last night: well, last night things were different.

zucchini pasta + pesto

That’s right: last night I brought my own dinner. Ok, so, it might not exactly be the most socially acceptable course of action, but sometimes maintaining friendships is more important than social norms, especially when one may or may not be bound for cat-owning hermithood anyway.

I knew I had to make something really delicious for dinner so that I wouldn’t be jealous of what, prior to my recent pizza-making adventure, I would’ve easily dubbed my favorite pizza — possibly even my favorite meal — ever. Fortunately I had some fresh zucchini, a wilting half-onion, and some delicious homemade sunflower seed pesto (recipe below) burning a hole in my fridge. I sliced and caramelized the onion, julienned the zucchini while the onion was cooking, added the zucchini “noodles” to the pan for a few minutes at the end with a pinch of salt/pepper/dried basil, and then topped doused the whole beautiful mess with pesto.

zucchini noodles

zucchini noodles, courtesy of my ridiculously excessive mandoline slicer

Guys, it was so good. In future I’ll probably just sauté the zucchini in regular ol’ slices (if you could see the size of that mandoline slicer compared to the size of my sink, you’d understand), but for this particular occasion it was totally worth it. Still-crisp-but-tender zucchini slivers, sweet-n-juicy onion bits, and lots and lots of creamy pesto. I didn’t even miss the hummus pizza.

zucchini noodles + pesto

all plated up fancy and ready to go!

The pesto is sunflower seed pesto (because I had some sunflower seeds kicking around in my cupboard/there’s no way I’ll ever afford pine nuts) with fresh basil from my basil plant, and it is awesome.

Sunflower Seed Pesto

3 cups fresh basil leaves, washed
1/4 cup sunflower seeds (I used roasted/salted, ’cause it’s what I had, but I imagine raw would be better; in that case add 1/2 tsp salt)
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
juice from 1 lime (again, it’s what I had; lemon would probably be good)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup water

Add basil, sunflower seeds, and garlic to vitamix/food processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Add nutritional yeast, salt (if using unsalted sunflower seeds), lime/lemon juice, olive oil, and a bit of water. Blend until smooth, drizzling in additional water (or olive oil, if you want a richer pesto) until desired consistency is reached. Enjoy on anything and everything. (It also freezes well!)

This is the perfect light/fresh (and cost-effective!) summertime pesto, and an ideal way to make use of an overabundant basil plant!

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