There’s magic in the word “pesto”. If something is tossed in pesto, marinated in pesto, suddenly, people’s eyes light up. It’s a staggering culinary alchemy. Part of it is the intense flavor that’s often associated traditional pesto – a basil and pine nut based slurry. The other part is the “magic” of pesto is the fact that people often get intimidated by the ingredients and the process. However, it really couldn’t be simpler.
And, now, as summer wans, I’m scarfing up every part of the glorious season of produce that I possibly can – tomatoes, plums, basil, peaches. Find me some decent mozzarella, and I’m on hog heaven. Recently, though, I stumbled across a recipe for pea pesto from one of my favorite online haunts for pea pesto. Now, Saveur magazine just did a recent issue on pesto, which started me thinking about what you really could do with a food processor, some nuts, garlic and other goodies. You can imagine my joy at the idea of pea pesto.
Admittedly, this pesto will not have have a texture that folks thrill over, but I thought it was fine, especially if you reserve a bit of the pasta water to toss in at the end. I also found that when I made it in my mom’s heavy-duty grown-up food processor, the consistency was much nicer than in my baby processor. That said, this is a pesto that is perfect company dinner. You’ll always have the ingredients on hand, and it’s really low fuss. It makes a perfect spread on crostini, and I’ve even eaten it as breakfast.
The original recipe is nearly flawless, but I found that the addition of some acid was just what the doctor ordered to elevate this and add some pop. The garlic quotient has also been bumped a bit. Oh! I’ve wanted to try this with almonds in place of the pine nuts, but the thought of blanching the almonds in order to take the skins off has been more than I can comprehend, especially with the start of the semester.
One last note: if you follow the link below, it will take you to Deb’s original recipe, which talks about tossing with linguini and some of the reserved peas. This is delicious; however, tossed with the whole wheat gnocchi and some fresh tomatoes made the perfect summer dinner. (I may have eaten both the dinner portion and the leftover container in the same sitting…maybe.)
And who know what I’ll throw in a food processor now? Artichoke hearts? Sun-dried tomatoes? Other ideas?
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
10 oz. package frozen peas, thawed
3 cloves of garlic
3 T. pine nuts (toasted are yummy, but I always burn mine, so I use them plain)
1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese
1 1/2 T. lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 – 1/3 c. olive oil
Combine the peas, garlic, pine nuts, cheese in a food processor and whir into a consistent paste, scraping down the sides as needed. Add lemon juice and whir again. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. When you’re happy with it, blend in the olive oil a little at a time until the pesto smoothes out. Toss with pasta or gnocchi, spread on a cracker, eat with a spoon or however your heart tells you.