Tuesday, March 30, 2010

who's the picky eater now? huh? who?

If I'm eating out, pasta with sun-dried-tomato pesto is probably the last thing I'll order off a menu. Just before all the dishes that have mushrooms in them, and also anything with meat. And shellfish. I don't eat shellfish. So maybe the sun-dried-tomato pesto would be, like, the ninth-to-last thing I'd hypothetically order off a hypothetical menu in a hypothetical restaurant.

What I'm trying to say here is that there's nothing appealing to me about sun-dried-tomato pesto. In fact, I'm not a big fan of sun-dried tomatoes at all. So it's somewhat shocking to me how much I love this pesto I'm about to tell you about. I mean, I really love it. As in, the second time I made it, I doubled the recipe, froze a little, and then ate the rest, two to three times a day, for a week. I had it for dinner on pasta. I had it for breakfast on toast. I spread it on crackers and dipped tortilla chips in it. I put a little dollop on some rindless chèvre and served it to friends. Some of it may have been eaten by the spoonful while standing in front of the open fridge—you will never know.

So it's versatile, obviously. And a little addictive. Easy to make. It freezes well. Need I go on?

A few notes:

* The first time I ate this it was on some gnocchi my stepmom prepared. She'd learned to make both the pesto and the potato pasta at a cooking class taught by Lee Duberman of Ariel's Restaurant in Brookfield, Vt. But since then I've eaten it with other pastas (mostly spaghetti, and mostly whole-wheat spaghetti, if you must know), because in spite of having my own personal lesson, I'm scared to try making gnocchi on my own. But I still employ the technique my stepmom used to toss the gnocchi with the pesto: Cook the pasta (to al dente if it's not gnocchi) in very salty water and reserve a cupful of the water before draining. Drain the pasta, heat a frying pan over medium-high heat, throw in a hefty dollop of the pesto and a splash of the pasta water, stir them together while they sizzle crazily, then toss in a serving or two of pasta, mix it all up, add more pesto or cooking water as needed, and eat.

* Like I said, the pesto is versatile. Eating it on tortilla chips is probably not for everyone, but at room temperature on top of goat cheese it's a real crowd pleaser.

* The recipe calls for pistachios, which my stepmom complained about having to shell. They do sell them unshelled, but hazelnuts might make a good substitution. Try it at least once with the pistachios; they're really not that much work.

* At the cooking class Lee Duberman apparently suggested a particular brand of sun-dried tomatoes, from Costco. I bought some, but I imagine any SDTs in oil would do.

* Rumor has it that Lee Duberman has a cookbook coming out soon, which I hope is true. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to a trip to Ariel's, which I've never tried, though Mark Bittman appears to be a big fan...

* And lastly, it turns out I really like to take pictures of pistachios, so I'll get another one out of the way here:

Sun-Dried-Tomato and Pistachio Pesto
From a cooking class by Lee Duberman

½ cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
½ cup shelled pistachios

1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
¼ cup oil from the tomatoes
¼ cup olive oil

Place all the ingredients except the oils in a food processer or blender.

Turn on machine and purée ingredients for about 1 minute. With machine still running, slowly drizzle in both oils.

Store pesto in the fridge for up to 1 week or freeze.


  1. Do not fear the Gnocchi! If you need a refresher course on pasta making let me know. Plus- I can teach you how to make ricotta pasta called... Gnudi!!

  2. I don't know. I'm nervous I think. Sun dried tomatoes aren't really for me but if you make it for me I'll try it.

  3. Banana, I would definitely be up for a refresher course, and my experiences eating gnudi have all been quite positive (have you had it at the Bluebird?), though I've never tried making it. I wonder how it deep fries...

    LL, you've eaten this pesto at my house and appeared to like it, though perhaps you were just being polite.

  4. Hey I'm so glad you like this! This class was so much fun to teach. Come to Ariel's and we'll see what other things we can get you to like!

  5. Wait, is this the pesto we had on the gnocchi??? If so, I APPROVE!!! That was so delicious.

  6. I'm so relieved this post had a happy ending. When I started reading I was already to comment, No, No, NO, Sundried tomato pesto can be delicious!

    But smart woman, you figured it out. And I've added pistachios to the grocery list. I can use the extras for craisin/white chocolate cookies (wait, did that recipe come from here too?)

  7. Chef Lee, I can't wait to eat at Ariel's, and this spring weather is perfect for a little roadtrip, so I'll be visiting sometime soon...

    Moj, this is the pesto you ate on the gnocchi. Pretty great, right?

    I like happy endings, too, DED, especially when they involve a plateful of delicious food. And I did post a recipe for cookies with craisins last fall (another palate-expanding experience), but they were made with regular chocolate. I was just going to write that I don't like white chocolate, but apparently I don't know *what* I like, so I'm going to shut up now.