Sweet Onion-Petso Pasta & Garlic Sauteed Spinach

September 3, 2009


There are so many incarnations of pesto – I thought this sweeter, creamier pesto was satisfying and indulgent, and went perfectly with some simple, garlic sauteed spinach. As usual, I recommend getting your ingredients organic and as local as possible!

WHAT YOU’LL NEED (serves 2):

pesto pasta

  • 1.5 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cups brown rice pasta
  • 2 Tbs raw cashew butter (or 1/4 cup raw cashews)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 large yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 Tbs nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper


  • 3 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbs olive oil


  1. Chop the onion, crush 2 cloves of garlic, and bring a large pan to medium heat, and saute them in 1 Tbs olive oil until golden.
  2. Pour in the wine and let the liquid reduce for about 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, put the basil, cashew butter, almond milk, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth.
  4. Add the sauteed onions and blend. Set aside the pesto.
  5. Boil the pasta until tender, and strain.
  6. Pour the pesto onto the pasta and mix.
  7. For the spinach, saute for 3 or 4 minutes on medium heat (in the same unwashed skillet you used for the onions) with the garlic and olive oil.
  8. Use basil leaves for garnish, top with some black pepper and nutritional yeast, and serve!

WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK: Dill Pesto Roasted Potatoes vs. Micachu and the Shapes

March 24, 2009

by Troy Farmer


I’m a huge fan of dill and am always trying to find new ways to incorporate it into foods. I feel like it’s totally the kid on the ball field who gets chosen last. Meanwhile, basil and cilantro and sage are all running around, showing off, sliding into home base…those jerks. Anyway, I’ve been hankerin’ to find a new use for dill lately and think this recipe fits the bill pretty well. It’s an accumulation of some familiar ingredients in a little less conventional packaging. “Pesto without basil!” you say? “Pesto without basil,” I say.

The musical group we’re pairing with the food is much the same: an unconventional packaging of a somewhat familiar and wholly delightful sound. Mica Levi, who tours and records with two other musicians (Raisa Khan + Marc Pell) as Micachu and the Shapes, is one of those talented souls who has the ability to create beautiful, catchy, easily accessible songs that somehow sound completely fresh and original. Her songs are unpredictable, bouncing along from verse to chorus to maybe another verse to some strange sound that may have been someone dropping a tray of dishes and back to the chorus. Really, one of the best things about the songs is that they’re never, ever boring. And, despite how odd and unlistenable that may make the music sound, it’s really not.

Levi, who was raised by musicians and started playing music at age 4, performed in the 90s as a DJ in London’s UK Garage scene, which seems to have found a place in the roots of Micachu’s glitchy, electronic beats and blips. On top of all that and interspersed throughout are myriad unique sounds that make it seem like the band is giving impromptu performances from a junk yard: vacuum cleaners, glass bottles, a homemade hammer action guitar, and a bowed instrument made from a CD rack. But grounding all of that potentially off-putting weirdness is the fact that strong, catchy songs are at the base of the music and, to top it all off, Mica and the rest of the band seem friendly and down-to-earth.

We highly encourage that anyone in NYC this week check them out at some of their post-SXSW city shows before they’re back in the UK by the weekend. (http://www.ohmyrockness.com/ShowList.cfm?ShowID=32057http://www.ohmyrockness.com/ShowList.cfm?ShowID=32999http://www.ohmyrockness.com/ShowList.cfm?ShowID=32710). And below are some tracks from the band’s new album, Jewellery, out now on Rough Trade Records (http://www.roughtraderecords.com/micachu/).

Whistle While You Work:
Golden Phone http://audio.sxsw.com/2009/mp3/Micachu-Golden_Phone.mp3
Just In Case http://mineorecords.com/mp3/mica-jus.mp3
Eat Your Heart Out http://mineorecords.com/mp3/mica-eat.mp3

Now to the food.

  • 5 Cloves of Garlic, pressed, chopped into large chunks
  • 2 Shallots, chopped into large chunks
  • 4 Walnut Halves
  • 6 Yukon Gold Potatoes, small to medium, quartered with skin
  • 1 Cup of Fresh Dill, packed to measure
  • 1 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  • 1/2 Lemon, squeezed
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt

I like to lightly cook the garlic in pestos to give them a more rounded, savory taste that’s a little less biting and much easier on the breath over the following 24 hours. So, first:

  1. Roast the garlic, shallots, and walnuts in 1 teaspoon of quality olive oil on medium-low in a skillet, preferably cast iron, for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Lightly salt the contents to draw out some of the flavor and moisture. Allow the garlic to brown a little, but not too much and definitely don’t let it crisp up. Once that’s done, transfer the contents to a small bowl and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, quarter your potatoes and roast them covered in a skillet in about 1 teaspoon of olive oil, turning them every now and then so they brown evenly. Do this for about 2-3 minutes, again, not letting them get too brown or crisp up too much, and then add about 1/2 cup of water to the pan. From here on out, you basically just need to keep checking the potatoes to see how tender they are. If they’ve absorbed all the water and are still too firm, add a little more water, cover, and check them again in a few minutes. It should take about 5-10 minutes though, all told. If you like things smokey, like I do, you can also feel free to add a touch of Hickory Smoke Flavoring while cooking the potatoes. Though I tend to add that to just about everything. It’s a problem.
  4. While the potatoes are cooking, still keeping an eye on them to make sure they don’t overcook, get the garlic mixture out of the fridge and add it to a blender or food processor along with the dill, 1/2 cup of olive oil, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of salt, and the nutritional yeast. Bend well, stirring from the bottom when necessary to make sure the mixture blends evenly. It should start looking like a bright green paste, similar to, say, pesto.
  5. Once that’s good and evenly blended, you’re ready to transfer the potatoes to a bowl along with the dill pesto, where you’ll mix and coat the potatoes just before serving, so as to keep that bright, spring-like green. And that’s about it.

From all of us at the Discerning Brute, we hope you enjoy a pleasantly mixed up week.


Whistle While You Work is written by featured contributor Troy Farmer. Click here for his full bio.

Troy Farmer

Troy Farmer

With ‘Whistle While You Work,’ we hope to bring you innovations in both vegan cooking and music, posting a new recipe and complimentary music review once every two weeks. Sometimes the music will inspire the food, sometimes the food will inspire the music, but, with every entry, we’ll give you new finds for your ears and your taste buds.