Aloha, Pesto

by paige on August 11, 2010

SOMETIMES, WHAT A cook needs more than a recipe is instinct. Intuition. And this summer, my instincts have been dead on, at least when it comes to my favorite homemade condiment, pesto. This old standby has had multiple reinventions this  year, and the inspiration is still coming…

I started with pesto this year as soon as the arugula popped up in my garden’s cold frame. Arugula, at least under my tenuous care, can grow leggy and bitter in what seems like an instant, but that’s no problem if you’re using it for pesto: A quick blanching cures the bitterness. I use equal amounts of blanched mature arugula and fresh baby leaves, blended with walnuts, the juice of a lemon, sheep’s milk Romano cheese (or sometimes feta) in lieu of parmesan, and of course, enough extra virgin olive oil to get the texture just to my taste.

Garlic scapes come under the processor blade next: their supremely sharp flavor marries well with a soft, nearly sweet nut like an almond or pecan, and then the usual cast of characters: a bit of parmesan, and…you get the idea. This one is particularly delicious spread on crusty bread for a biting, nearly chartreuse reinvention of garlic bread.

Now, high summer, it’s basil’s turn. Ever since mine started leafing out, I’ve been making pesto like mad. Sometimes, I use my mother’s trick, using half flat leaf parsley along with the basil, to stretch the classic green. But mostly, I follow my usual non-recipe recipe: filling the bowl of the food processor with washed and dried leaves, adding a couple handfuls each of walnuts and just-grated parmesan (the best I can afford–it makes a difference), a grind or two of black pepper, and then streaming in gorgeous green olive oil until I have a nice melange in between paste and liquid. Every time I make it, I swear some will make it to the freezer for winter. For me,  nothing can cut through the dark of a winter night like a brilliant taste of summer bounty. Alas, we keep eating it all up.

I am away from my garden this week, but pesto has followed me all the way to Hawaii. Here, no surprise, chefs use the local macadamia nut to give body to the classic sauce, in lieu of the traditional walnuts or pine nuts. They add a subtle buttery richness that’s a perfect compliment to the sweet, bright flavor of the basil.

Check out the other, incredible food bloggers’ additions to this week’s Summer Fest, and don’t forget to chime in in the comments with a link to your own contributions!

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer August 11, 2010 at 7:08 am

Love the idea of macadamia nuts, and to see a recipe I often think of as Italian get a Hawaiian makeover. I posted a recipe for a creamy Genovese basil pesto for this week’s Summer Fest.

Melissa August 11, 2010 at 11:55 am

Interesting info n Hawaiian pesto thanks.
This week for SummerFest at It’s The Way She… I made Lemon-Thyme Walnut Biscotti

Alison August 11, 2010 at 2:30 pm

This looks amazing. This week my recipe is for Green Beans with Cilantro and Lime

Kim August 11, 2010 at 3:12 pm

At Flexitarian Foodie, we’re into beans and greens—together, or separately! Here are a few of our favorite related posts:

Beans & Greens: The Soup

Creamy Vegetable Lasagna

Avocado and Black Bean Enchiladas (my favorite!!!)

Winnie August 11, 2010 at 7:22 pm

I love the idea of macadamia nuts in pesto :)

I wrote about one of my favorite herbs in honor of this week’s summer fest. It’s anise hyssop, and the post is found here:

Lana August 11, 2010 at 7:52 pm

I always have walnuts and they are my staple choice for pesto (pine nuts are so very expensive!)
Husband would just ADORE pesto made with the macadamia nuts, and I might give it a try when i pick the leaves off my lonely patio basil plant.
My contribution to Summer Fest is a story and a recipe for a hearty vegetarian Bean Stew.

Nancy August 11, 2010 at 8:10 pm

YUM… that I think sums it up nicely, don’t you think?? Basil Macadamia pesto with some fresh shrimp… heaven!!

Well, here is my contribution for the week – Green Beans with Tarragon Vinaigrette

I love seeing what everyone else comes up with!!

Fran August 11, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Oh wow, macadamia nuts in pesto sounds fantastic! I’m going to have to get a jar, pronto. What a great idea.

I posted a Green Curry Shrimp recipe for my first Summer Fest contribution here:

alana August 12, 2010 at 9:09 am

I’m coming to Hawaii for some Pesto. I’ll be the one on the beach with basil behind my ear.

Kate @ maître de moda August 12, 2010 at 10:12 am

i LOVE playing around with pesto. this sounds really, really wonderful.
i used pesto a bit this week as well, but in the form of ‘pistou’ (basically, more herbs!) – quinoa and spice-grilled shrimp with pistou:

Nicole August 12, 2010 at 4:08 pm

I love the idea of macadamia nuts in pesto! I’m thinking of trying one with pistachios soon. Happy Summer Fest!

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