Granted, I think it might be easier if I simply wanted to make recipes that I already know and take pictures of them. But since through my "8/28 Cooking Challenge" I have been trying to make random recipes from even-more-random cookbooks... well... that gets to be tough. (If you need a refresher on what that challenge is supposed to be, check out this post about "Turkey Amandine on Toast.")
I mean, there have been a lot of recipes that I've opened up to and realized that I had one out of 18 ingredients on hand - and was missing one of the primary tools, as well. So... yeah... some recipes got shelved even before they got prepped. I do plan to get back to it, though, and now that it is getting cooler out, I hope to have more time to do it.
With all of that in mind - and because I harvested quite a bit of basil from our garden, yesterday - I decided to do a variation on The Challenge by trying to make pesto. With almonds and cashews (not together, but each in its own batch of pesto), instead of pine nuts (which I don't have in my pantry).
I've had pesto made with cashews in the past. And I really love the flavor. It's not really as nutty as you'd think, and it tends to be a little more dense than typical pesto. A friend recently said she makes it with almonds, and Christopher liked the sound of that, so I struck out for a recipe for either.
I did some online searching, but didn't come up with anything definitive. So I did the next best thing: Social media searching. And I was sent a couple of tips ("don't use those nuts, it's supposed to be pine nuts" was a common theme). And then one friend sent me the following, which is apparently a Jamie Oliver recipe:
- handful of basil
- 50g almonds
- 50g Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic
- splash of lemon juice
Yep. It seems pretty random, so I figured it was a Jamie Oliver recipe and went with it. (Luckily, we have a scale that does grams, so I was fairly set.)
First, I toasted the nuts. I did them in the toaster oven, and worked with the theory of "as soon as you can smell them they're done." (Basically, I threw them in when I turned it on and by the time the oven was preheated, they were done.)
|Hmm... Notice any difference between the amount of cashews and the amount of almonds - both at the same weight? Yeah... that played into things later on.|
My basil had been harvested yesterday, so it had already wilted, so I had to guess how much of it would have been "a handful," yesterday. (And, remember, I was making two batches, so I had to split it up.)
|You can see that the basil was looking a little sad by today. But I still used most of it, because when it's going to get pulverized, anyway, being a bit saggy isn't exactly a problem.|
|Not gonna lie. I think it looks kind of cool like that.|
So I added more stuff. More oil. More garlic. Some salt. More cheese. More lemon juice. I kept walking out into the living room with a spatula full of it and asking Christopher to taste it (he did not eat a full spatula's worth - he just dipped a finger in).
|I think this was about halfway between plaster and pesto.|
Once we decided it was good to go, I portioned it out into some ice cube trays. (Note to potential dinner guests: If you reach into the freezer for ice and grab the tray with the ice that looks a tad green, do NOT use it in your drink.) One of the recipes I saw suggested covering the top of the "ice cube" with more oil, so I tried that on the first batch. Then I shoved it into the freezer for use the next time we want a quick, fresh pesto to go on pasta (or anything else).
|Would anyone like a little almond/basil pesto in their cocktail?|
So what do I think? I think the cashew version has a slightly better flavor. It's more "robust," the garlic comes through better, and I prefer the texture by just a hair. The almond version is a little less flavorful - I contemplated putting in some red pepper flakes, just to amp it up a bit, but decided we'll just have to work with it on the back end when we're cooking with those cubes.
Oh. And the eventually arrived-at recipe:
|This was one of my "handfuls" of basil. As you might guess, I had to factor in "shrinkage," among other things...|
- handful of basil (this worked out to about 15 grams of it by weight, and probably would have been about 1 1/2 very lightly-packed cups of fresh-from-the-garden)
- 50g nuts (lightly-toasted almonds or cashews)
- 75g shredded Parmesan cheese (roughly half of the one-pint-looking container you can buy in a grocery store, which I believe listed a weight of 141g)
- 4 cloves garlic (the cloves I used were fairly big, but we like a lot of garlic)
- 6 tablespoons olive oil (enough to make it not plaster)
- 3 splashes of lemon juice
- salt to taste
(Tune in in a few days to find out what else I did with my nuts in the kitchen, today...)