A couple of years ago, I had the unfortunate luck of getting pine mouth from eating a salad with toasted pine nuts at a local restaurant. A few days after I ate the salad, everything started tasting metallic. After a few days, I was convinced I had a brain tumor or something terrible. I started googling and realized that I had pine mouth. It lasted for about two weeks, but from what I’ve read online, it can last up to a month for some people. Even drinking water tasted bitter. Although I really liked pine nuts before that experience, I’ve had to cut them out of my diet for fear that I will get it again.
I was disappointed about this development, but I haven’t been missing pine nuts too badly because I’ve found that I can substitute other nuts and get very good results.
When we were on Corn Island in Nicaragua we stayed at Farm Peace Love. The owner is Italian, and she served us pasta with pesto one night. We inquired about the availability of pine nuts on the small island, and she informed us that she substitutes cashews, which are readily available in Nicaragua.
Cashews work beautifully, and this is a rich, creamy pesto. You can adapt the recipe below by changing the herbs or nuts. I love basil walnut pesto, and the other day I had a lot of parsley and pecans around so I made a parsley pecan pesto - not as good as a basil pesto in my opinion, but quick and easy to whip up for dinner. Feel free to experiment.
I like to make big batches of this and freeze it so we can have it all winter. If you are going to freeze the pesto, omit the cheese. Divide pesto into mason jars or freezer containers and freeze without the cheese. Add the cheese after it is thawed and you are ready to eat it.
Basil Cashew Pesto
Recipe from Kiss My Spatula (original recipe is basil walnut pesto)
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves, rinsed and dried
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cashews
4 tbsp freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove
big squeeze of fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
In your food processor, pulse together basil and cashews. Add garlic and olive oil and pulse again. Add cheese, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Pulse until just blended. Scrape down the sides of the food processor bowl with a spatula and pulse a few more times.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge. You can add a little more olive oil when serving if it is taken straight from the fridge or you want a thinner pesto. Sometimes I mix in a little pasta water before tossing with hot pasta.
This recipe is very easily doubled or tripled for big batches.