September 25, 2009

Unorthodox Spinach Pesto

I love flavors. I like sweetness, I like sourness, I like saltiness, and I like bitterness. Especially with vegetables (except brussels sprouts. They're a little TOO bitter. But straight up cabbage? Hell yeah!) and spinach is one of my favorites. I love it raw, I love it cooked, I love it smothered with cheese and baked into a casserole (I ESPECIALLY love it smothered in cheese and baked into a casserole!) but there are some dishes where the texture of spinach and its overwhelming flavor aren't appropriate in the amounts you'd usually want to put in as a vegetable portion. So, I thought, spinach pesto! With parsley, because parsley is DELICIOUS.

Traditionally, a pesto is made with basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, and balsamic vinegar. However, I think my favorite pesto is one that I made with basil, parsley, walnuts, garlic, and olive oil. It has a lighter flavor than traditional pesto, but it's still delicious! This spinach pesto is an experiment, but I think it's pretty good.

One bunch of raw spinach
One bunch of parsley (flat-leaf, if you can get it. I went with curly, which has a sharper flavor)
Four cloves of garlic
1/2c or so of almonds
Olive oil

Into a food processor, add your nuts. Anything with a milder flavor would work. Walnuts are especially nice if pine nuts are too expensive (which, for me, they always are) but almonds give a unique sweetness that I thought would be useful for this recipe.

Then, because you got ahead of yourself, turn away and get your leaves washed and dried. Be very, very thorough with your washing! There's usually a lot of sand/dirt in leafy greens, since those leaves are close-packed and hold onto dirt with a passion.

Pretty! Either let these drain really thoroughly, or pull out your handy-dandy salad spinner. I found my salad spinner out by the dumpster at my apartment complex. ROCK!

You want to get as much of the water off as you can before adding your leaves to your processor. Water and oil don't mix, and you eventually want to incorporate lots of olive oil into your pesto, and if it's too wet, that will be difficult to do effectively. Don't worry about it being perfectly bone-dry, just spin it through a few times. Add a handful of each to the food processor.

Now, my food processor has a pretty small bowl and it's pretty old, so I have half of the nuts, two cloves of garlic, and a handful each of spinach and parsley. I ground these down, added another handful of spinach and another handful of parsley, and blended in oil as I pulsed the processor until I'd incorporated half of the spinach and half of the parsley. Between handfuls of herbs, I scraped the sides of my processor bowl. If you have a bigger, better, newer processor, you might not need to deal with all of this. I don't have one of those, so I had to take a bit more effort.

Don't skimp on olive oil.

Let me repeat that to make sure it's abundantly clear:

Don't. Skimp. On. Olive. Oil.

Olive oil is what will make your pesto smooth as silk and hearty and delicious. You will use a lot of oil. This is a good, good thing. Olive oil is good for you! Love it. Use it. Eat it. You want your finished to pesto to look kind of like this:

It's smooth and uniformly blended and totally delicious! This is really potent stuff, but it would be delicious mixed in with a cream sauce, added to a pan sauce, smothered over a mild meat like pork or chicken and roasted, etc. Probably not eaten with a spoon. This stuff is really strong. AND DELICIOUS!

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