Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Cheaper Pesto Recipe

I loved pesto clinging to my long pasta from the first mouth full-- maybe it's something about the bright color and the smell that enlivens the senses, even before the powerful flavors and nutty rich layer hits the tongue-- whatever it is, pesto is pure potion of witchcraft.

What's kept me from giving into the mysterious seduction on a more frequent basis? For one, why in the world does a basil pesto have to be so expensive? It has just a handful of ingredients: olive oil, garlic, basil, pine nuts, hard cheese and some salt. I've tried every economical form of it short of the real thing, the Knorr instant powder pesto to the pre-made refrigerated versions, but nothing seems to come close to the dynamic taste of freshly made pesto.

Secondly, pine nuts (pignolis) and fresh basil are not the most readily accessible ingredients. Pine nuts, one of the most expensive nuts on the market, not only spoil quickly but demand for them worldwide fluctuates greatly from year to year resulting in their exorbitant prices. Using walnuts or almonds makes a good substitute, but even these are not cheap. Some claim that basil is easy to grow year round, but I haven't found that to be the case. Finding it in the off season in the cooler months isn't all that easy.

Quite by accident in one of my culinary experiments to satisfy my craving for the green monster, and as so many good things happen in the kitchen, I discovered that the sunflower seeds sitting on the counter might be a good substitute for pine nuts, and, perhaps the cilantro sitting in the drawer of my refrigerator might work instead of basil for pesto. I was using a wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano at the time, so I used that instead of Romano cheese. The result: Absolutely delicious!

Cilantro (didn't ya know?) is a superfood and a card-carrying polyphenol heavyweight, comparable to basil. Polyphenols are now known to have almost supernatural powers to fight off infection, reduce cholesterol, detoxify and reduce blood sugar levels in the system. Indeed it turns out that pesto is an elixir of sorts, curative and restorative to the physical body.

Look for Part 2 coming shortly with my recipe for Cilantro Pesto.

"Pesto", from the Italian verb "pestare", means to pound or to crush.

  • Wikipedia
  • The Fat Resistance Diet
  • Food Network

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