The Ins and Outs of Pesto: I’m Sorry

I’m sure you don’t want to know this, but pesto made with a mortar and pestle really is better than pesto made in a food processor.

I know, I know: It’s a LOT of work and more difficult than dumping ingredients into a bowl and pushing a button, but you just can’t argue with the creamy, airy texture. I didn’t really notice any difference in flavor and probably won’t bother with the labor-intensive method TOO often, but when I have time and my inner gourmand demands it, I will.

Read the article that finally convinced me to try it. Maybe you’ll be convinced, too! I used Marcella Hazan’s recipe, substituting walnuts for the Italian pine nuts I couldn’t easily find. (Note about the photo: I wasn’t quite done yet, but the light was fading fast, so I shot by the window then returned to my labors.)

Chive Blossom Vinegar

Eight years ago, Gil and I were newlyweds enjoying our first summer together in this house. We started decorating and renovating — projects that continue to this day — and I tried my hand at gardening, not realizing in that rush of excitement over having a yard that we barely get enough sunlight for grass, let alone tomatoes. But I have managed to grow many pots of herbs on our second-floor bedroom deck over the years. They require almost no maintenance beyond a good dousing during dry spells, but the lowest maintenance herb of them all (and thus, the closest to my heart) is my chive plant, which still returns every Spring and still delights me when it does.

Chive Blossoms, Jar | Amy Roth Photo

That first summer, I learned that chive blossoms are edible, and sprinkled them liberally over green salads, potato salads and omelettes for a hint of onion flavor and a dash of color, but never thought to do anything more than garnish with them until just last month. I follow David Leite of Leite’s Culinaria on Facebook, where he posted a link to his chive blossom vinegar just as my blossoms were coming in, so that became my latest project.

Chive Blossoms in Jar | Amy Roth Photo

Though my single plant produces more chives than we can consume in a season, the amount of blossoms it yielded was only enough for a tiny jar of vinegar. Still, three weeks later, I can assure you that the volume is sufficient and should last a while. The vinegar is the pink of a deep rosé and has a pungent, savory-sweet aroma that can really get your juices flowing, culinarily-speaking.

Chive Blossom Vinegar | Minimally Invasive

I’ll try it in a vinaigrette the next time I make a salad, but today, I used it to perfume and season a kale and spinach pesto, which I tossed with zucchini noodles for a Paleo take on pasta.

Zucchini Noodles with Kale Pesto | Minimally Invasive

There’s no recipe for this dish since my pesto changes each time I make it; I just throw things into my food processor and adjust the seasonings before tossing it with my base of choice. Today, I broke out my spiral vegetable slicer on the first zucchini of the season (thanks, Bialas Farms!), simply salting the noodles lightly and letting them drain in a colander until it was time to dress them. For the pesto, I tossed a little of this and a bit of that into my food processor: a handful of spinach and two handfuls of dinosaur kale, some chopped, toasted almonds, grated Parmesan cheese, a few chives, a hit of basil-infused olive oil (a delicious indulgence from Olive That in Montclair), extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of sugar to balance the kale’s earthiness, a pinch of salt, lemon juice and a splash of the chive blossom vinegar. It sounds like a lot of cooking when the ingredients are listed that way, but it really wasn’t. It took all of 10 minutes to throw everything together and sit down to a really satisfying lunch.

Of course, you can make this without the chive blossom vinegar this summer because it’s probably too late for you to indulge, but please give it a try next year. This vinegar is a wonderful way to enjoy those spring blossoms for an extended season.

From the Market — The Kickoff

Grilled potatoes, radish green pesto, shaved asparagus

We went straight from winter to summer around here, and not a moment too soon. I’m stuck in an office today instead of out enjoying perfect grilling/hanging out/whatever weather, but at least it gives me time to reflect on last weekend’s fixin’s.

We’re going to have some green on this blog and lots of it now that our local farmers’ market is back for the season! It was a bittersweet opening, as some of you know — our market is now dog-free. Poor Gil looked like a lost soul just wandering around without the boys, while I did what I always do and loaded up on good stuff to carry home. We’ll probably venture out to other markets that are dog-friendly in upcoming weeks, so stay tuned for a full report.

grilled potatoes, radish-green pesto, shaved asparagus

I felt like an appetizer to get the ball rolling, and ended up with one that would be just as good for barbecues as for a light dinner during grilling season — grilled potato rounds with radish-green pesto and shaved asparagus. It’s vegetarian, nutrient-dense and good hot or cold (though I give the nod to hot-off-the-grill because crispy grilled potatoes just can’t be beat).

grilled potatoes, radish-green pesto, shaved asparagus

It’s easily adapted to use what you have in the house. The radish-green pesto came about because I hate throwing anything away, and a pesto is just about the easiest way to use extra greens. If you don’t have radish greens or just don’t like them, use any kind of pesto you prefer. I had some garlic confit in the fridge, so I tossed the asparagus with garlic oil and lemon juice, but go ahead and use olive oil if that’s what you have.

Springtime pie

For lunch, I rejiggered my triple-garlic pizza, adding quick-pickled wild garlic & spring onions and shaved asparagus and radish-green pesto leftovers. Really good stuff.

These quick-pickled wild garlic & spring onions were inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s pickled onions.

after baking

A thin layer of mozzarella and grated parmesan and garlic confit (natch) tied the whole pizza together. We made short work of it, I’m afraid, but I still have the makings for one more pie, which should be just the thing to kick off this next weekend.

recipe after the jump

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Pastalaya, crawfish frittata, buffet at Pancho’s

The Hank Williams classic updated for 2009, which is a roundabout way of saying I spent last weekend visiting family in Des Allemands for my nephew’s 7th birthday. The food was terrific (as usual), and the company even more so, though the birthday boy completely ignored his auntie. Oh, well. That’s a little boy for you.

I didn’t take many pictures this time around, but did manage to snap this one, which is quickly becoming a favorite:

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My new cousin, who couldn’t quite decide about me.

While I was away, Gil and The Ambassador stopped by the farmers’ market to pick up a few things for me, but I didn’t have a chance to use all of the spinach and arugula during the week. After getting fresh supplies this Saturday, I decided to use the week-old produce in one shot with a pesto to go with some leftover whole wheat pasta. It was all very free-form, but here’s how it went.

I toasted two handfuls of walnuts until they were warm and fragrant, then put them in the food processor to cool while I worked on the the rest of the pesto.

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After they’d cooled somewhat, I pulsed them with a clove of garlic until the whole thing smelled like heaven, assuming your idea of heaven is warm walnuts and garlic.

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I added about one part spinach to two parts arugula, filling the bowl of the processor twice before pulsing; that’s the amount of the greens I had on hand, but you can adjust to taste.

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There was also quite a bit of Parmesan, good olive oil, zest from 1/2 lemon, and salt & pepper, all blended together until I was left with a satisfyingly bright green mess.

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Which, when tossed with leftover whole wheat pasta, became an easy, light lunch, perfect for the oppressively humid day.

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Rufus after the jump.

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