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Omega-3 Lemon Balm, Hemp, & Flax Pesto Spread – Vegan

lemon balm pesto

Winter has been very mild here in central Florida this year. My herbs still look great. After pruning back my basil and lemon balm plants, it appeared that it was time to make pesto again. Pesto is one of my favorite sauces! 🙂

I do have one problem with traditional pesto recipes – not only do they contain a lot of oil, they contain a lot of olive oil. Most people have been led to believe that olive oil is a “health food”, and that just isn’t the case. Most plant based oils have omega fatty acid ratios that favor omega-6 and lead to inflammation. As I have a history of inflammatory disease, I try to eat very little oil, but when I do need to use a little in a recipe, I opt for flaxseed oil, which is very high in omega-3 fatty acid, making it an anti-inflammatory food. Flaxseed oil is a little pricey though, so in order to reduce the total amount required in the recipe, I make a thicker pesto spread instead of a sauce. It is wonderful in sandwiches!

lemon balm hemp flax pesto spread

Another ingredient in traditional pesto, which is problematic, is pine nuts. Standard variety pine nuts have THREE HUNDRED TIMES more omega-6 than omega-3. According to Dr. Joel Fuhrman, the Mediterranean variety of pine nuts is much better with a 1:30 ratio. It is significantly better (10 times to be exact), but still very high. We can do even better than that be replacing the pine nuts in traditional pesto with hemp seeds. Hemp seeds have a 1:3 ratio – 10 times better than even the Mediterranean pine nuts. They also have a nutty flavor that compliments the flaxseed oil nicely. By replacing pine nuts with hemp seeds, we have literally made the omega fatty acid ratio of the nut/seed component in recipe one hundred times better

lemon balm hemp flax pesto spread

The last ingredient that I have replaced in this recipe is the cheese. There is a lot of controversy regarding the health benefits of dairy when all factors are considered (whether or not it is from grass fed animals, whether it not it is pasteurized, etc.). Regardless of these things, I’m allergic to it, so dairy is a non-negotiable ingredient exclusion for me. Instead of cheese, I use nutritional yeast in this recipe. It is an inactive yeast that contains all essential amino acids, and multiple B-vitamins. Some brands, like Red Star Nutritional Yeast, are also fortified with B-12. 

lemon balm hemp flax pesto spread

It’s also REALLY good in sandwiches.

gluten free vegan panini sandwich

Omega-3 Lemon Balm, Hemp, and Flax Pesto
This recipe has just a hint of lemon balm, and a few other key ingredient changes that create a much healthier omega fatty acid ratio than traditional pesto.
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Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 cups basil (replace up to 1/4 cup with lemon balm, if desired)
  2. 1/4 cup flaxseed oil
  3. 1/4 cup hemp seed
  4. 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  5. 3/4 tsp sea salt
  6. 1 TB Trader Joe's "21 Seasoning Salute" (or your favorite garlic or Italian-inspired spice blend)
Instructions
  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor until an even, but slightly chunky, consistency is achieved.
Notes
  1. I used lemon balm to replace some of the basil because I had it in my garden, but you don't have to do that for this recipe. It adds a nice hint of lemon to the recipe, but is not necessary.
  2. I experimented with the Trader Joe's seasoning mix since I had swapped out a few other ingredients, but you don't have to use it. You can use a garlic powder based seasoning blend or an Italian-inspired spice blend of your choice, and it would probably still taste great.
A Taste of Two Plates http://tasteoftwoplates.com/

Advanced Raw Cuisine: Day 6

raw vegan beet carpaccio

Day 6 of Advanced Raw Cuisine at Matthew Kenney Culinary has been completed! This starts the second week of class where the focus is on “advanced equipment”. We’ll be learning how to use the sous vide technique for raw food, how to infuse a smoky flavor into the food via a smoking gun, and how to use the dehydrator as a hot box. I’m very excited about playing with some new kitchen toys!

To start the day, some prep work was required. I made almond milk and processed the strained out pulp into almond flour. I also made some oat flour by soaking raw oat groats, dehydrating them, grinding the grains, and sifting the flour from the bran. 

Next, it was time to harvest some herbs and season the macadamia goat cheese, which had been fermenting over the last 24 hours. I choose lemon balm, parsley, and dill. The lemon balm added a really nice flavor. It is slightly tangy like lemon, slightly sweet, and slightly bitter. It’s one of my favorite tea herbs. The parsley added an earthy quality to the mix, and the dill gave it a rich and savory quality. I love dill so much. I’d put it in everything if I could. 

fresh garden herbs

The macadamia cheese was shaped into a log by rolling it in parchment paper. It was then rolled in the fresh chopped herbs. It had a very herbal and earthy flavor, complimented by the tanginess and saltiness of the nut cheese itself. 

If you’d like to make the macadamia goat cheese, you can fine the recipe on page 48 of Everyday Raw Express: Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less by Matthew Kenney.

raw vegan macadamia goat cheese raw vegan macadamia goat cheese

Following the cheese flavoring, it was time to experiment with the sous vide technique! I was a little intimidated that our first project was to utilize beets. It’s no secret that I have a love-hate relationship with them. I try to like them, I really do. I know they’re super healthy, but they taste like dirt to me. It’s not my fault though. Science says I’m just overly sensitive to geosmin. I taste it in fresh corn sometimes too. 

Geosmin is an organic compound with a distinct earthy flavor and aroma produced by a type of Actinobacteria, and is responsible for the earthy taste of beets and a contributor to the strong scent (petrichor) that occurs in the air when rain falls after a dry spell of weather or when soil is disturbed.” [Wikipedia]

Another side effect of being a supertaster, I suppose. So there. 

I chose yellow beets for this assignment since they have a milder flavor to me. I also love they are the color of sunshine, and I live in the Sunshine State, after all. I sliced the beets on a mandolin, tossed them in some seasoning, and added some fresh herbs from my garden. They went into a vacuum sealed back, and then into the water bath.

I’m using the Anova Sous Vide Immersion Circulator. It’s pretty awesome. It clips onto any container, so you can use a big stockpot that you might already have and it stores easily since it’s basically just a metal cylinder. It stores easily if you have a small place like I do, and there’s no need to purchase a separate sous vide machine. Best of all, it’s very reasonably priced at less than $200 if you get it through Amazon.

raw vegan sous vide beets raw vegan sous vide beets raw vegan sous vide beets

After this project, we made an oat crumble and put it into the dehydrator and also made an almond gelato, which was put into the freezer to set up. 

Then, it was time for a lesson about agar agar. Agar is a seaweed that has amazing gelling properties. It’s not technically raw, but as a sea vegetable, it is rich in minerals, low in calories, and a good source of fiber. It can be used as a replacement for gelatin, and it can also be re-heated and re-blended if it sets too quickly. It’s a very versatile and it’s benefits outweigh its drawbacks. We used it to make a raw vegan version of tofu, with a base of coconut and cashew. 

It had a really nice flavor and texture. It didn’t have the same weird aftertaste that traditional soy based tofu does, and it is completely soy free. If you’d like to make this recipe, it is on page 66 of Matthew Kenney’s book, Everyday Raw.

raw vegan coconut tofu raw vegan coconut tofu

Finally, it was time to plate the beets with the components that we’d been putting together. This dish contains the sous vide beets, the macadamia goat cheese, the lemon butter I made on day 5 and put in the freezer, some crushed pistachio, and a few microgreens or sprouts. 

If you’d like to make this dish, you can find a similar recipe on page 48 of Everyday Raw Express: Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less by Matthew Kenney.

raw vegan beet carpaccio raw vegan beet carpaccio raw vegan beet carpaccio raw vegan beet carpaccio raw vegan beet carpaccio raw vegan beet carpaccio

What a great and delicious day! I can’t wait to see what we’ll be creating next!

Advanced Raw Cuisine: Day 5

raw vegan corn and mint ravioli

I just completed day 5 of the Advanced Raw Cuisine course through Matthew Kenney Academy. What a wonderful experience my first week has been so far. We covered different types of sauces extensively every day, putting our lessons into practice with a variety of delicious recipe creations. For many of these recipes, we also learned new techniques for food preparation. 

Today, we learned about a 5th type of sauce used in raw cuisine, the “enhanced sauce”. This group of sauces is quite versatile. They are emulsified and using the basic method, they can be used to create either a light and silky smooth sauce, a butter, or an ice cream. For today’s lesson, we used this technique to create a tangy “tomato fondue”, which was used as a sauce in a raw ravioli dish that we plated later in the day.

raw vegan tomato fondueraw vegan tomato fondue raw vegan tomato fondue

While the sauce was warming and thickening in the dehydrator, we created a second enhanced sauce. We were given the option of creating either an olive oil ice cream or a basil butter. I chose the basil butter because I grow my own basil, and I love being able to make recipes with food that I’ve grown myself. This creation went straight from the blender into the freezer to use at a later time. 

basil

When the tomato fondue came out of the dehydrator, it was time to assemble and plate the rest of the ravioli components. We made the corn and mint pesto, which you can see hiding between the coconut wrapper squares  in some of the photos, and we also tossed a little baby arugula with a little olive oil, pine nuts, salt and pepper to help break up the color and spacing on the plate. I had the coconut wrapper squares that were prepared and cut up for the previous day’s lesson all ready to go! 

Bonus: The mint came from my garden. It’s really rewarding to be able to use my own herbs in these recipes!

This is the final result. The whole dish came together beautifully. I was able to put it together quickly and have it ready for lunch time. The tomato fondue was savory, tangy, and had a buttery, but light consistency. The corn and mint pesto was very slightly sweet and refreshing. The coconut wrappers were infused with a bit of carrot and also offered a subtle sweetness to contrast the tanginess in the sauce. They also contributed a more solid, but still soft texture. The arugula tossed with olive oil and lightly seasoned added just a hint of bitterness and saltiness, which nicely balanced the whole dish, both in flavor and in plating. I was thrilled with how well this turned out.

raw vegan corn and mint ravioli raw vegan corn and mint ravioli raw vegan corn and mint ravioli raw vegan corn and mint ravioli

The final project of the day was to get started on some macadamia nut “goat” cheese, which will be used in some recipes over the next few days (and probably plenty of snacking too). 🙂

raw vegan macadamia nut goat cheese raw vegan macadamia nut goat cheese