Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cutting Board Pesto

 When most people think about pesto, they think they have to buy it at the store or make it in a food processor.  The true pesto, originating from Genoa, consists of basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmigiano Reggiano and olive oil.  It is traditionally made with a mortar and pestle, not a food processor.

Fun etymology fact: The Genoese name is pesta, which means to pound or crush and led not only to the name of pesto, but pestle as well!  

When we were at the coast earlier this month, the kitchen at the cabin we stayed in was pretty well stocked with the basics but there was no food processor, of course.  So I improvised.

My pesto is a little different than traditional pesto.  For starters, I usually use walnuts.  Not only are walnuts far less cheaper in my neck of the woods than pine nuts, they are a nutritionally dense food that I like to eat several times a week.  I also make my pesto without cheese as I try to eat vegan as much as possible.  So, as you can see, it is easy to make your own variations as well.  Sometimes I use cooked broccoli or arugula in place of or in addition to the basil.  Sometimes I use almonds or raw pumpkin seeds.

The gist is: something green, some nut or seed, garlic, good quality olive oil, salt and pepper. 

I also like to use high quality, good tasting salt.  Libertine Tacoma makes a wide range of delicious salts.   Once you have assembled your ingredients, it is time to cook!

Cutting Board Pesto (Vegan variation)

2 handfuls basil
3-4 cloves of garlic
3/4 cup walnuts
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

It's key to chop the ingredients all at once versus one at a time, because you want the flavors to meld.  I start by roughly chopping the basil, garlic, and walnuts side by side and then mixing them together on the board and chopping them until they are as fine as I want.  I add about a teaspoon of salt plus freshly ground pepper and mix it a little more.

At this point you can put it into a bowl and then drizzle in the olive oil while stirring.  But I like to dump it right into whatever I am cooking and then stir the olive oil into the pan.

Below on the right is onions and mushrooms being sauteed.  This is where I will add the pesto.  On the left is a big pot of pasta cooking.  I like to add greens, in this case, chopped chard, to the boiling water for the last 2 minutes of cooking time.  It saves a pan and make everything easier. 

 I added the pesto to the cooked onions and mushrooms and then stirred in my olive oil.  I like to let it gently cook for a minute or two to integrate the pesto flavors into the mushrooms.  But I don't cook it too long because I like my garlic to still have some zing.  If you like cheese, you could sprinkle Parmesano right on top of the plated food as a nice garnish.  
Thinking outside of the box, cooking wise, can never be a bad thing.  Sometimes you will have failures, but sometimes you will have Cutting Board Pesto!

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