Friday, May 10, 2013

Deconstructed Pesto

Dear Mouse,

Yes I am alive. It has been so long since I blogged. Sorry.

So, it's spring! And, let me get this out of the way, I made these.

                                                     Fiddlesticks - sorry, fiddlehead- ferns.

Mouse, I'm aware that no one likes a hater. So I hasten to assure you there will be no actual Hating on anything fern-related or otherwise in this paragraph. But  - and I hate to be This Girl again - I don't really have much to report. These curly green cuties, if you haven't heard of them, are second only to the almighty Ramp as a coveted herald-of-spring, short-season delicacy. I had somehow never had them before. I was at Whole Paycheck when I saw them, mounded on a bed of ice, and began scooping them into a plastic bag with a manic Food Blogger's Gleam in my eye. Surely, the Spring Blog post to end all Spring Blog Posts!

They were fine.

Bright and coquettishly furled like vegetable escargot, kind of an asparagus-meets-butter-lettuce or something I'm boring myself. They are delightful blanched and then briefly swirled in a pan with a little butter and lemon and salt and maybe garlic. Do not eat them raw because apparently only deer (?!) have the stomach for that.  Were they tasty? Yes. Transcendent? Proustian? Blogworthy? No. Everybody calm down about the fiddlehead ferns.

Oh look, I blogged about them.

Ok I know what you're thinking: "Man, the Boo came back from Kentucky in a really cranky mood!" And you'd be half right --- I'm never good with the Down Time and uncertainty between gigs, as I may have mentioned.  But it's nice to be back in my kitchen, and having produced not so much as a slab of almond-flour banana bread for my hungry cast mates (for shame!!) the entire time I was gone, I feel I owe us all a little spring cheer - or at least advice on how to create some.

I love pesto -raw, bright,  herb-drenched, parmesan-laced, oily goodness - on just about anything  except vanilla ice cream (Anything's possible, of course.)  But -  maybe because I didn't own a blender of any kind until recently? - I make a version more akin to the Splendid Table's  "Chopping Board Pesto", where you just pile the various ingredients on the board and have at it with a big knife, then pour oil all over it til it sticks together. The result is more like a wet salad than a smooth sauce but I think it gives a kind of leaves-and-flowers visual and a fun texture to the pasta or whatever it is holding it up.  Recommendation: If, like me, you are in one of the shall we say Low Carb Professions, you may want to try spooning it onto strands of baked spaghetti squash, comme ca:

Spaghetti squash (R) with Cauliflower Pesto (L), a la the Smitten Kitchen recipe. 
  (Full disclosure: There is also a purchased, chopped meatball hiding underneath the veggies. 
 Don't judge me.)

This is not a recipe really, just an idea - the basic structure can be adapted to really any kind of green herb or veg/nut mixture you like. I've made mint-almond, cauliflower-walnut, sage-pistachio - or was it walnut? - and of course your basic basil-pine-nut type. I felt really guilty about working this way, like I was too lazy to make a sauce or something, but then I noticed the sly liner note in the Smitten Kitchen cookbook: "Or just make like an italian grandmother and do it all by hand."


To get you started, see below. Improvise! Write and tell me about it in the COMMENTS. If you quail at the thought of going without a recipe, follow the Splendid Table one for starters (but I like to put the cheese in with everything else). 

Happy chopping!


The Boo

1. The Boo's Deconstructed Basil Pesto
via  Splendid Table  

Handful or two? of basil leaves, chopped
garlic clove, chopped
one handful? pine nuts, mashed/chopped
grated parmesan, good amount, to taste

Chop everything up together in a big pile and transfer to bowl. Slowly pour olive oil over in a thin stream while stirring it up with a fork, just enough for it to stick together and clump. Taste and adjust. When you like it, spoon it over hot pasta or spaghetti squash strands or whatever you like, and toss to combine. 

2. The Boo's Deconstructed Cauliflower Pesto
(basically Smitten Kitchen's but with what I had in the pantry)

most of a small head of cauliflower, chopped into crumbles
maybe 8 sun-dried tomatoes -the dry kind - chopped (more if you like more)
one clove garlic (def. not more with this), minced
1/2 C walnuts
grated parmesan, i dont know, 1/2 C to a C?
olive oil

Same dealyo as above, though it won't really clump as much or perform as sauce-like. The 3 tbsp of oil she calls for should actually do it . But again, up to you!