Friday, August 23, 2013

Spicy Almond Pesto




I have had amazing luck with my herb garden this year so I kind of almost keep forgetting about it. In the past I grow everything in pots and they do okay but this year it's like a mutant steroid farm out there and I just can't use all the herbs fast enough. I am not worried about the 400 lbs of oregano, thyme and rosemary since they all dry really well but the basil either had to be consumed this weekend or it was going to go to pot so I had no choice but to make some pesto.


I like a traditional pesto well enough but I like to change it up all the time. I love to add arugula, change the nuts and throw in something to give it a bit of heat. I almost never use pine nuts since I was attacked by them during the great PINE MOUTH EPISODE. I was part of a year long experiment where two friends and I documented our year of never repeating a recipe. I will tell you right now that even though I think of myself as a very good, adventurous home cook who thrives on variety, having to NEVER repeat a dinner once in an entire year was one of the hardest things I have ever done. The first terrible blowup occurred that February 10th when I made a pasta dish with roasted cauliflower, pine nuts and lemon. That is when I discovered that Shack is actually my picky toddler who loves pasta but really only loves it with red sauce of some sort and that the upcoming year was going to be more challenging than I had imagined. If I can only make pasta with a variation on a tomato based sauce for a year, we were in trouble. Because they both poo pooed my delicious pasta dish, I ate it all. I ate a huge bowl that night and then finished it off the next day at lunch in a fit of fuck you. It actually was very, very delicious and I was really angry at the waste of food just because you don't feel like eating it. In a cruel twist of fate, I woke up a couple of days later with a really strong metallic taste in my mouth which would not go away. Everything I put in my mouth tasted like metal- even water tasted like rusty can. Some googling told me that I had a case of "pine mouth" which is not uncommon and was the result of eating some type of cheap, inferior chinese pine nut. So, for the next two weeks, every single thing I put in my mouth tasted like metal and even though I know that if I buy the more expensive, good quality pine nuts imported from Italy I will be fine, I am now terrified of pine nuts.

So, that is how I have come to use mostly almonds in my pesto and it works just fine plus almonds are so much cheaper than pine nuts so I'm still winning.

This pesto has some preserved lemon (my latest obsession) for brightness, sun dried tomato and a bit of chili flake to give it a touch of heat. I froze a double batch in an ice cube tray so if you have enough basil, triple the batch and eat one now and freeze the rest for later.


Spicy Almond Pesto


2 cups packed fresh basil
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
1/4 tsp hot chili flake (or to taste)
1 tbls chopped sun dried tomato
1/2 seeded, chopped preserved lemon (mine are the size of large walnuts)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup = 1 tbls extra virgin olive oil
pinch kosher salt


Pack the basil, almonds, cheese, chili, sun dried tomato, garlic , lemon and a pinch of salt into the food processor (my mini processor is the perfect size for this amount) and pulse until it's all fully ground). Start adding the olive oil - either drizzle or if you can't drizzle while it processes, add half, pulse a few times and then add the rest and pulse again until it's the texture you like. I like mine to be pretty well ground and creamy but not totally pureed. 



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