The words pesto and pestle (as in mortar & pestle) are relatives. Pesto originates from the Genoa region of Italy and was traditionally made by crushing garlic, basil, olive oil, parmigiano reggiano, pine nuts, and sheep’s milk cheese. Pesta is to pound, in reference to the grinding of these ingredients in the old marble mortar and pestle. Pesta, Pestle, Pesto. Besides the traditional list of ingredients there is an entire slew of other worthy additions you can use to make this classic more interesting and personalized. It’s basic method of preparation lends well to pretty much any herbs and oils, and you’ll find such variations as arugula, dandelion, pumpkin seed, spinach, pea, almond, mint, and sage, all over the internet. When we think of the term pesto we think generally of basil pesto, but in the context of it’s original terminology pesta/to-pound-with-pestle: it is correct to call these other ground concoctions pestos as well.
I’ve been doing some thinking this week about all of the dinners we’ve prepared at home over the past year or so. In doing this I’ve realized how much I’ve missed out on for the blog, as there’s never any leftovers for photos the next day and I don’t have a proper lamp for indoor nighttime photography. We generally like to prepare different ethnic foods from around the globe, as we get bored with the same ‘ol. Some of the dishes I’ve had success with over recents months include:
Fish cakes with dill + lemon
Slow cooked lamb stew
Braised beef shank with vegetables + prunes
BBQ pulled pork buns with quick pickled carrots + slaw
Beef burgers from scratch with my homemade burger buns
Burmese noodles in a spicy coconut + turmeric broth
Chinese fried rice with pork loin
Sesame buckwheat soba noodles with chicken, scallions + spinach
Seared scallops with lemon over Udon noodles
Assorted ramen noodle bowls
Korean bibimbap-style udon noodles with vegetables + egg yolk
Fusilli Rigati pasta with pancetta, tomatoes + caramelized onion
Roasted vegetable couscous with spicy sausages + grainy mustard
Indian curry in a homemade bread bowl (bunny chow)
Curries in general, both Indian and Thai
Among many other dishes… but it’s time I start keeping some sharing with you all here. Baking is what I post here, but I assure you many more creations pour from this kitchen daily. I don’t enjoy making the same things each week. Always looking for something new.
So on that note, here was last nights toss-together: African blue basil + arugula pesto. The basil plant I purchased in May has grown from a 99 cent sprig into a full blown tree! I took an entire handful from it for this pesto last night, and it made no dent at all. Now, this is poor man’s pesto as well, as I usually can’t bring myself to drop the cash on pine nuts. This is a nut free version. Food processors work particularly well for thick pastes such as pesto, but all I have is a blender and it worked fine. Just be sure to stop the blades every few seconds and gently push down the leaves to help everything meld and to ensure you don’t burn out your motor! If the mass refuses to come together: slowly drizzle in a little extra oil and/or water to loosen it up a smidge. Also keep in mind that arugula is incredibly peppery and lends a bitter spicy tang to this pesto. If you don’t like that kind of edge than just stick to basil. You can have your pasta cooked al dente, drained, and resting on the side before you blend up the pesto. Keep some pasta water aside to thin your sauce.
African Blue Basil + Arugula Pesto: feeds 4-6
1 cup loosely packed basil
1 cup loosely packed arugula
1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup leftover water from pasta boiling
2 cloves garlic
pinch chili flakes
pinch (or 2) salt
pinch (or 2) black pepper
pinch (or 2) sugar
2 wedges lemon or lime, just the juice
-Place all ingredients in the blender or food processor and blend until smooth, stopping the blender every few seconds to push the leaves down with a wooden spoon to help incorporate.
-Toss with fresh cooked pasta and top with arugula and grated parmigiano reggiano.
Ciao for now!