Basil & Broccoli Stem Sauce

A favourite pairing of mine is broccoli and basil.  Besides the matching colours, the tastes also play well.  I’ve often used them as stars for soup, and they’ve since become a mix I rely on for saucing pasta, pouring over grilled tempeh or mixing in with a cooked grain.  It’s lighter than an oil-heavy pesto and more subtle than a tomato sauce – something spring-like and dainty.  If you think about it, there isn’t really much difference between a sauce and a creamy soup.  Use a bit less water, that’s all!

Yield: 4 cups of sauce, give or take

What you need:

  • 4 good sized broccoli stems, peeled and chopped big, about 4 cups
  • 1 leek, chopped big (a big onion would work too)
  • olive oil, as much or as little as you want, about 2 teaspoons is what I use
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry basil
  • 1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons white wine (optional)
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews, soaked and drained if simmering – if you’ll be pressure cooking, no need to do anything to them
  • 1 packed cup (or 2 loose cups) fresh basil leaves
  • sea salt
  • white (shiro) miso (optional)

IMG_3647

What you do:

  1. Heat a pressure cooker (no cover on) over medium heat.  When hot, add the oil, leek and broccoli stems.  Coat the veggies in the oil and cook, lowering the heat to medium-low, until bright and beginning to brown a little.                                   IMG_3648
  2. Add the dry basil and garlic and cook a couple of minutes more.
  3. Add the wine, if using, to deglaze the pan and lift the yummy caramelized bits off the bottom of the pot.  If not using wine, use a couple of tablespoons of water instead.
  4. Add the water, cashews and some salt (between 1/2 teaspoon and 1 teaspoon depending on how salty you like it and if you’ll be using miso or not.  Another thing to cogitate is what you’ll be using the sauce for.  If it’s going to go over pasta or grains, you’ll want it saltier (think pesto).  If it’s to pour over already salted veggie-patties, tempeh or roasted spuds – then you won’t need or want as much salt – okay, tangent done.).
  5. Fit the cover on the cooker and bring to pressure over high heat.  Lower the heat way down and cook 3 minutes or so.  Quick release the pressure as per the instructions for the pressure cooker.
  6. Not into pressure cooking?  Not to worry.  You can still make the sauce, just cut all the veggies very small and soak the cashews for 2 to 6 hours before making the sauce (drain them).  After that, go through steps 1 through 4 in a saucepan or soup pot.  Once the water and salt are added, bring to a boil and then cover tightly, reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until everything is nice and soft.
  7. However you get the veggies and cashews cooked, once they’re done, blend in a blender until completely smooth (high speed works awesome).  Taste for salt and add either salt or white miso as desired (you shouldn’t need much – hopefully the salt balance is pretty good already).
  8. Add the fresh basil to the blender and blend again, until mostly uniform but still showing some darker flecks of fresh green.
  9. Serve immediately for the most vibrant visual effect.  While it will taste just as good the next day, the bright and tender green won’t be so fabulous (you know what broccoli does as it continues to cook, it goes a bit olive and drab…).

Variations:

  • Add 2 or 3 drops of lemon zest oil to the sauce before cooking and the zest of an organic lemon along with the fresh basil when blending;
  • Add a bit more liquid and serve as a soup.

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