Say it’s somewhere between 5 and 7 in the evening. You’re dead tired and you don’t feel like slaving over a hot stove for an hour. Well, that was the situation I found myself in last night. I also didn’t have any proteins defrosted, so I knew I’d have to go vegetarian. (Plus for health and environmental reasons I’d like to incorporate more vegetarian food into my meal plans. Entry on this coming up soon.) I was kinda at a loss…then I remembered I had a couple of cups of watercress in the fridge. All of a sudden it hit me: watercress pesto.
“Watercress pesto? Now you’ve gone too far, bspen.” you’re surely thinking. But, yes, it’s true: I made watercress pesto last night, and was it delicious.
Pesto’s amazing for many reasons: It’s a no-cook sauce, it’s made with stuff that’s good for you, it’s quick and easy to throw together, and a it’s a multi-tasker (you can use it on pasta, as a topping for crostini, as a sammich spread, as a stir-in for soups/stews/sauces). It’s also incredibly versatile. If you don’t happen to have basil on hand, you can use parsley, arugula…just about any green you like. I even used kale once.
Here’s the basic recipe for pesto. Below it I will list swap outs for the key ingredients.
- Roughly 2 cups of basil
- 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped or grated
- 1/3-1/2 cup of good quality olive oil
- 1/2 cup grated good quality Parmesan cheese
- Roughly 1/3 pine nuts, toasted (if desired)
- Around 1/2 tsp. salt, plus a pinch of pepper
In a food processor, pulse the ingredients as you stream in the olive oil. When the pesto reaches a slightly runny paste consistency, stop. Serve with hot, cooked pasta if desired.
Last night I reserved some of the pasta water and used it loosen up the pesto. I tossed it with the pasta, along some fresh, chopped Roma tomatoes.
For the basil: parsley, spinach, kale, watercress, arugula, swiss chard, dill (I’ve even seen butter lettuce and tarragon used.)
For the toasted pine nuts: pistachios, almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts
For the cheese: Asiago, Pecorino Romano (The cheese may be omitted entirely in cases where it might clash with other ingredients)
Ever made a pesto that was a little off the beaten path? Ever used a pesto in a fresh and interesting way? Share your recipes and stories starting…NOW!