Pesto! With a Twist!

We’ve had an uneventful couple of days, marked by one night where we just sort of picked at food from the fridge and a second night of an OK quiona salad.  You know, that’s all well and good but its not really blog material.  And believe it or not, I really don’t plan the meals with this blog in mind.

My inspirations often come from elsewhere.  In my most cliche’ moments, I’d say my inspiration often comes from the local Farmers Market.  That is certainly true of this week’s meal.

Usually our Farmers Market trip is fairly routine.  The selection here isn’t overwhelming compared to other parts of the country, so we usually get the things that I know I like to cook with.  This week there was — as usual — a lot of herbs.  I don’t often pay much attention to those because I have a small selection of fresh herbs in pots in the back.  But this week TPE was asking for “something with dill” (I have no idea why…stay tuned), which I don’t have.  I didn’t really find the dill I was looking for, but there was one organic stand with a lot of nice looking basil at a good price ($3 for a large bunch).  So I decided that pesto would be one of the meals of the week.

Pesto is easy enough but, honestly, I’ve been avoiding pasta since TPE became a vegetarian.  Not only is it “too easy” but I’m worried that it will become so much of a crutch that eating it becomes unhealthy.  The basil was just too much to pass up in that quantity at that price to not eat it this week.  That challenge is to do something interesting with it though.

I used a fairly basic recipe for starters.  About a 1/2 cup of cheese, a couple of cups of basil, 1/2 of olive oil, two cloves of garlic, and some butter.  “No pine nuts?,” you must be asking Faithful Reader.  Nothing is that easy.  TPE doesn’t like pine nuts and generally doesn’t do well with nuts at all.  Yet pesto without the nuts… what thickens it and helps it cling to the pasta and not be too oily?  My solution was to replace the pine nuts with chickpeas.  And that worked great with respect to flavor and texture.  I’m a big fan of this now, if only because it means I can feel ok about the protein thing.  Yeah, I know that’s not as much of a worry as people think.  Still.

But how to spice it up?  How to make it better than the normal pesto?  She-Who-Hums has been begging me to make caramelized onions lately.  She got hooked when I made some for the lentil croquettes that are becoming as stable of our family cuisine.  TPE calls them “lentil balls.”  That makes me giggle.  Anyway, I decided to caramelize onions and put them in with the pesto.  I could get a veggie into She-Who-Hums that wasn’t an olive or pickle, plus it would be a nice little twist in our relatively simple meal.

It worked wonderfully!  I even called them “a revelation,” but that was probably hyperbole.  But the sweetness of the onions, the saltiness of the cheese, and the slightly bitter garlic in the sauce made for some pretty darned good eating.  In retrospect I need to pay a little more attention to how much garlic goes in there and just how pungent it is (dinner was a touch bitter), but it was great.  And She-Who-Hums had a nice meal to boot, with onions, pickles, cucumbers, and onions to match her bologna sandwich (cut into the shape of a star).

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Comments

  • Celeste  On July 19, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Hey, have you tried spaghetti squash? You can grill it and then use the strands like pasta. I love it! I’m going to have to try it with your pesto. I usually saute grape tomatoes in olive oil with garlic and then mix in some feta. Yummy!

  • Angela  On July 19, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    There’s something about pesto . . . we had it tonight too, but I am a traditionalist (sort of). My only variation is to sub toasted walnuts for the pine nuts. Pesto . . . someone should write a song about it . . . a poem maybe? Bi-color corn on the cob on the side and the meal is done. The chickpea thing is interesting. I will have to give a shot. The addition of caramelized onions reminding me of this Genoese dish: http://couscous-consciousness.blogspot.com/2010/03/spaghetti-pesto-with-potato-green-beans.html

  • sdmcclurg  On July 20, 2010 at 6:03 am

    @Celeste…its funny you should mention spaghetti squash because I just picked one up this week with the idea of having TPE try it. Great minds! I’ll be trying your sauce too.

    @Angela…that recipe sounds great, definitely on my list of “to try” now.

  • Ellen  On July 20, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Why butter instead of olive oil in the pesto? Never heard of that before, but it sounds good. So do the chickpeas.

    The spaghetti squash is heavenly and takes most sauces pretty well. After baking/roasting it, you can even saute’ it a bit to get it a bit crispy. One of my favorite squashes!

  • sdmcclurg  On July 20, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    There is the normal olive oil, *and* some butter. I typed too fast.

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