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Monday, April 19, 2010

Pesto: The Last of My Rampage

Pesto is fascinating, isn't it? Ok, maybe not fascinating...but certainly interesting. It's easy and gives you instant gratification. All you need is a food processor (or a blender, but I think you REALLY need a food processor to make it work well) and some ingredients and POW! You have a dip, a sauce, a spread...("it's a hat, it's a brooch, it's a Teradactyl.")

Traditionally, pesto is made with basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil. That's it, aside from salt and pepper. But there are recipes that switch that up all over the place. Spinach, peas...all can be made into pesto with the right balance. I've made a tarragon and parsley pesto. I make a spinach and walnut pesto that is one of my absolute favorites! I tend to start the processing of the pesto with stock, just to lighten it up a bit and get the greens moving...and then stream in the olive oil. But it's basically hard to screw up. Just taste and test as you go, blending and adding to your heart's content.

I decided to use the remainder of my ramps (sad to see you go, happy for the week's worth of meals I had) to make a pesto, per the genius of my friends at Kitchen Lab. I took it a step in a new direction, swapping in pistachios for the pine nuts (they also made one with walnuts) and using manchego cheese. It needed some lemon (zest and juice) and I lightened it up with a bit of stock, but it was tremendous! Throw in some chicken sausage and bulgur and we had a beautiful meal. More importantly, we had a few beautiful jars to give away!

Bonus points go to the readers that can name the quote above!

Pesto (in a nutshell)
3 or so C (packed loosely) greens, herbs, ramps, whatever
Heavy splash of vegetable or chicken stock (if you want to lighten it up)
1/2 C toasted nuts of your choosing (just toast them in a dry pan for a few minutes)
1/2 grated cheese (again, try different hard cheeses to mix it up)
Lemon (zest and juice) if necessary, depending on your greens
1/2-3/4 C olive oil (depends on consistency)
salt and pepper

In the bowl of the food processor, pulse the nuts til they're mostly chopped.
Add greens and a splash of stock (or oil) and process down to a rough paste.
Add in cheese and lemon zest (if using) and turn your machine on, slowly streaming in the olive oil, tasting and testing as you go.
When you reach desired sauciness, add in salt and pepper, more cheese if necessary, lemon juice if necessary, and stir.
Serve with pasta, meat, as a dip...the possibilities, they are endless! 

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