I’m sure it goes without saying, but I love having dinner with friends. One of my favorite parts of going to a friend’s home to share a meal is that I get to experience flavors and flavor combinations that I may not include in my own cooking. I also get infused with a new energy that serves to wake me up in a way. I love experiencing how each person’s own energy becomes steeped in the food, from what they choose to make to how they make it and how they serve it. Each element becomes part of the meal’s flavor profile, creating an energy that I get to incorporate into my own being.
I’ve always said that you can’t be truly healthy unless you cook for yourself. Cooking for ourselves is akin to all the other self-care practices we do, from brushing our teeth to getting a good night’s sleep. When we cook for ourselves, we are saying at the deepest levels, “I want to be alive.” When we cook and serve ourselves food filled with prana (life energy) we are declaring, “I really want to be alive and vital!”
I believe the same is true in reverse as well: that we can’t be truly healthy unless we allow ourselves to be nurtured and impacted by others. The energy and love we get from another acts as a great elixir—a health tonic. Just like the mouse that will not develop any new neuro-networks if its put in a cage without stimulation, I believe that a vital part of us doesn’t get the chance to develop to its full potential if we only ever eat from the same source.
This past weekend, I got to savor some fresh basil flaxseed pesto (no cheese needed) made with ingredients from a friend’s garden as part of a yummy meal she made us. Though the traditional recipe for pesto, the one we’re all familiar with, includes basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, salt, and parmesan cheese, Patricia used fresh basil, flaxseeds, garlic, salt, and olive oil. It was divine on the homemade fish cakes she made. The dish had a lightness and freshness to it, while still making a strong, definitive statement (much how I would describe Patricia herself!). It’s fun to realize how we can actually start to distinguish the flavor of the cook’s energy in our food.
Patricia’s version of pesto got me thinking of all the other combinations of nuts, seeds, and greens that could be put together to make pesto with personality. Below is my recipe for spicy cilantro pesto, which uses pepitas. The Kripalu Chef, Jeremy, created it, and I have to say that it’s just like him: quiet and low-key at first look, but with a surprisingly bold, fun, unique side that makes you just smile.
I’d love to hear what combinations of ingredients you’ve discovered to make your signature pesto. And even more fun: How does your pesto reflect you?
Spicy cilantro pesto
Makes 1 ½ cups
2 cups fresh cilantro (leaves and stems)
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
½ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
½ teaspoon sea salt
Pinch of chili flakes
¼ cup parmesan cheese (optional)
Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is finely pureed. Serve over rice, pasta, vegetables, or with your favorite protein (tofu, white beans, chicken, fish, or shrimp).