Who doesn’t love a good pesto? Yes, you can have it on pasta, but it’s also a perfectly delectable addition to fish, chicken, bread…it can seemingly do no wrong. And we’re just talking about the pesto we, in America, know and love: Pesto Alla Genovese, made with basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and pecorino romano/parmesan.
But truly, pesto can be made with a range of ingredients, outside of the traditional, especially because the word ‘pesto’ is a “generic term for anything that is made by pounding” (or using a mortar and pestle…OR, more so today, a food processor).
Purists would say that pesto is an Italian dish and that it shouldn’t be messed with. But in Germany, they make a pesto using ramson, and in Peru they have a similar dish that uses vegetable oil instead of olive oil, spinach instead of basil and no pine nuts.
Here is a prime example of thinking outside the box, when it comes to making a unique pesto: Watercress, Ramson, Walnut and Foraged Hogweed Seed Pesto
And Saveur Magazine’s “11 Pesto Varieties” also provides an array of possibilities when it comes to pesto.
Last night, I found myself skimming through my new cookbook, a present to myself, called Keepers. It was recommended by a close friend, and it’s living up to its word. So far, everything I have made from the cookbook is most definitely a ‘keeper’.
I ended up adapting one of the recipes, for Swiss Chard Pesto, because I had kale instead of swiss chard and gruyere instead of pecorino romano or parmesan. Usually, gruyere would be no replacement, as the consistency is so different, not to mention the taste, but it turned out remarkably well!
This recipe also calls for sunflower seeds, as a replacement for the usual pine nuts, as well as lemon zest and juice, garlic and I threw in some parsley from my garden. Why not, right? To me, cooking is about taking chances with the knowledge you have. I took a chance, and it paid off!
Using a food processor, the pesto came out beautifully, with loads of flavor and the perfect accompaniment for bowtie pasta (my daughter’s favorite) and some asparagus. The green was so vibrant!
This pesto adaptation was served with some panko crusted chicken and sourdough bread. Tasty, tasty tasty, and it couldn’t have been easier to prepare.
Taking chances with the pesto recipe I had was well worth it, and I see pesto, and its adaptability, as a reflection and example of how cultures that seem so different, might be more similar than originally thought. Food does connect us all!