Tuesday, December 15, 2009

CSA Week 3 - pesto and pisto

I've been making quick work of my CSA share this week. The Thai basil started changing color on me from green to purplish-brown, which told me it was time to make pesto, and fast.

It's sort of a shame pesto seems so dated and 1980's, as it's tasty, versatile stuff and the basic concept works with a broad variety of different combinations of herbs, cheeses and nuts. I went traditional here though, starting with three cloves of peeled garlic and about a 1/2 cup of pine nuts, lightly toasted in the toaster oven. Those went into the food processor, along with the basil leaves, were pulsed until smooth, and while doing so, I started adding a drizzle of olive oil through the feed tube. I don't measure the olive oil (OK, I don't really measure anything); the texture I look for is a loose paste. It could have been anywhere between 1/2 and 1 cup of oil.

I could try to convince you that I prefer to grate the parmesan separately and then add it to taste, but the truth is I forgot the cheese. So, by accident rather than design, I grated about a 1/2 cup of parmigiano reggiano and then added that to the rest of the ingredients. Salt to taste. It all came out OK.

I blanched the green beans (3/4 lb.) in boiling salted water for about five minutes, then shocked them in ice water to keep them from overcooking. I then used the same water (I use a spider to fish them out rather than dumping the water through a colander) to boil about 3/4 lb. of dry linguine. When the pasta is cooked, drain it and throw it in a big, warmed bowl (I stick it in the oven at 200ºF while the pasta is cooking), and toss with a big generous spoonful of the pesto and green beans. Use enough pesto to evenly dress the pasta: I used about 3/4 of the batch of pesto I'd made (probably about 3/4 cup). Grate more parmesan over the top, and grind black pepper to taste.

I made this over the weekend for the kids and one of their guests for lunch, and they all wolfed it down. That makes me proud.

OK, that's pesto - what about pisto?

I learned of pisto, or pisto manchego, on our last visit to Spain, when we had it for lunch at a little restaurant in Toledo. It's basically the Spanish take on ratatouille, a stew of eggplant, tomatoes, onions, peppers and zucchini. But the Spaniards know that the way to make just about anything better is to put an egg on it, and that's what they do with pisto. The place where I tried it did even one better, and draped a slice of serrano ham over the vegetable stew as well. My ratatouille already happened here, so this was mostly a matter of warming and assembling.

One tiny little note of possible value: lately I've been cooking my fried eggs in olive oil rather than butter. I think the idea came from José Andrés' "Made in Spain" show. I like that you quickly get a puffy, crispy fully cooked white while the yolk still remains runny.

With bò lá lốt in the works for later this week, I may actually finish off all of this week's CSA share ahead of schedule.

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