Sunday, September 14, 2014

8/28-ish - Pesto, Change-o!

I realize that it has been a very long time since I posted a recipe on here. Almost immediately after setting the goal of blogging more about food, I realized how much time and effort goes into it.

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. 
I started out with the almonds and followed the recipe as it is listed, above. I tossed everything in the food processor and got ready to amaze myself with pesto after a couple of quick pulses of the blade.

Not gonna lie. I think it looks kind of cool like that. 
I got... paste. No. Not even paste. I got plaster, maybe. Chunky paste if I squinted. Not pesto.

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.
Gradually, we came to a consistency and flavor that we decided were decent. And then I accidentally added too much salt. So we had to add more garlic and oil to balance it out. Probably should have added more basil, but needed to keep it for the next batch.

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? 
The second batch went much quicker, because I had some idea what I was aiming for. (Also because I didn't take any photos.) The cashews weren't actually raw to begin with (they were from one of those huge containers from Costco, so they were lightly roasted with salt), and they took the flavors really quickly. So I was pretty much done with that after the first blitzing. (Christopher, again, suggested more basil might be good, but... well... second batch meant I had used all the useable leaves by then.)

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...)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to trying your recipe using almonds (the only type of nut my son is allowed to have). I've really missed pesto, not only on pasta but as a base for one of our favorite pizzas.