I know this blog showcases more cakes and cookies than lettuce and legumes, but the truth is aside from the occasional treat, I'm actually a very healthy eater. Yes, I love burgers and bacon and ice cream, but in order to indulge in those decadent treats every once in a while, I balance it out with plenty of servings of salads, veggies and whole grains.
One of the first restaurants that made me aware of the deliciousness of healthful, flavorful, organic foods is the Northstar Cafe, in Columbus, Ohio. When I lived in Columbus for a year, the Northstar Cafe quickly became my favorite restaurant in town - everything was organic, had a vegetarian option and was so full of flavor. What's more, the restaurant happens to be owned by a girl from my tiny hometown in rural Ohio, so not only was the food fantastic, but it felt great to support someone who grew up in the same place as I.
While there was basically nothing on the menu I didn't love, my absolute favorite thing was their Sweet Basil Burrito. Once I tried it, I rarely strayed from ordering it again and again. The burrito was filled with brown rice, sauteed peppers and onions, the option of chicken or tofu and a really delicious creamy pesto sauce. More than three years later, I still think about that burrito (a little dramatic, yes, but it's true). I have no idea when the next time will be that I actually get back to Columbus, so I just couldn't let myself be tortured with unsatisfied cravings for my beloved burrito. I knew what I had to do.
I had to attempt to recreate it.
So, over the weekend, I set out to do my very best to bring the Northstar Cafe Sweet Basil Burrito to my very own kitchen. And the outcome? AMAZING. Upon first bite, I couldn't believe how close I'd come to the taste of the original. Now, sure, I'm basing this from memory, but I can't forget that taste - and my at-home creation was near identical.
And it was all thanks to this sauce. This creamy, sweet, delectable basil pesto sauce.
The sauce came together as a basic pesto recipe with just a few tweaks. I didn't measure anything out, really, but just tasted and adjusted as I went. To make it creamy, yet healthful, its base is Greek yogurt.
So, onto the tortilla went brown rice, sauteed onion and red pepper, and chopped rotisserie chicken. I drizzled the pesto and mixed everything around before wrapping up.
Now, Northstar Cafe's burrito is not grilled once it's wrapped, but to keep everything sealed in, we opted to throw it on the panini press for a minute.
Though about half the size of Northstar's Sweet Basil Burrito, our at-home version was just as flavorful.
I loved the first burrito so much, I had to make another one. I was left full, happy, and had floods of memories of my favorite Columbus restaurant filling my head. It was all perfect.
If you live in or near Columbus, please go to Northstar Cafe and feed your face with this delicious creation. but if you don't, rest assured it is not difficult to recreate at home! You'll thank me for this unique twist on the average burrito, I'm sure of it.
Sweet Basil Burrito
(inspired by the Sweet Basil Burrito at Northstar Cafe)
Makes four burritos
For the burrito:
1 C brown rice
1 C red pepper, sliced
1 C yellow onion, sliced
Rotisserie chicken (or one skinless chicken breast, chopped)
4 burrito-sized tortillas (I used a low-carb, high-fiber variety)
For the creamy pesto sauce:
1 C fresh basil
3 Tbs pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
1/3 C grated parmesan
1 Tbs olive oil
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
Cook brown rice following box directions
Meanwhile, saute peppers and onions in tsp olive oil until caramelized
To make creamy pesto, add basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan to food processor and blend. Drizzle in olive oil and continue to blend until well combined. Add in Greek yogurt and blend until creamy. Add a splash of milk, if necessary, for a thinner consistency.
Top tortilla with rice, sauteed veggies, chopped chicken and pesto sauce. Fold into burrito. Press on panini press or grill, if desired.
If you want to be really authentic, serve with a side of homemade tortilla chips and fresh salsa, just as served at the Northstar Cafe.