Pesto! Yay!
by Baby Huey

Pesto. Everyone loves it. If you don't love it -- fresh, cheesy, nutty, tart -- then you're a terrorist-supporting pinko bedwetting commie leftist. Yeah, I said it. Most people don't know, though, that pesto is not a particular recipe; it's more of a procedure. The word pesto comes from the Italian verb pestare, which means "to pound." Originally ground by hand in a mortar and pestle, today it's usually done in a blender or food processor, because we're lazy and there's NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. So, today, we're going to explore a few options.

mandp.jpgBasil Pesto

So, this is the traditional pesto and what you think of when you think of pesto.

3 c whole basil leaves
3 cloves garlic
1/2 c pine nuts
1 c grated parmesean cheese
1/4 c lemon juice (about one lemon's worth)
1 c olive oil

Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until they just start to get a bit dark.

Put everything in a food processor or blender (if you're using the blender, make sure to put the lemon juice first, so there's something to blend) and zap it till it's the smoothness that you'd like. Stream in the olive oil ... you may not use all of it. It's all a matter of how thin you want it. For something to spread on bread, you may only use half the oil, but to mix in with pasta or as a pizza sauce, you will use all of it.

Sun-dried Tomato pesto

Same recipe as the traditional, with the following changes: reduce the amount of basil to 2 c, and add 1/2 c of sun-dried tomatoes, that you've let sit in a cup of very hot water for about 10 minutes to rehydrate.

Olive tapenade

A similar dip to pesto, you won't use any basil at all. Instead, use 2 c of pitted olives (but I swear to god if you use martini-stuffers or canned black olives I will hunt you down and make both you and your family pay), and add the zest of the lemon that you juiced.

Arugula-pepper pesto

This is something I tried this weekend, and served it over beef tenderloin and roasted potatoes. It was a big winner.

3 c baby arugula (about 1 bag from the salad section of the market)
1 bunch itailian parsley
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp green peppercorns (they're the immature berries that become black pepper, you can find them with the olives and capers in the market)
1 c parmesean cheese
1 c olive oil

Same procedure as everything else.

Pesto is good on everything. Spread it over grilled bread. Toss it with pasta. Use it as pizza sauce. You'll never find a better sauce for grilled meats or oily fish (like salmon). Toss with marinated vegetables like artichokes. Hell, just eat it with a spoon.

I need your help folks. Dishful of Metal is always much easier if you tell me what you want to read about. Anything you want a recipe for? Want to give me an ingredient and have me do an Iron Chef-style meal for it? Let me know!

I mentioned last week that I'd been rocking the new Shadows Fall record so I thought, you should at least know what it's about.

shads.jpgShadows Fall
Threads of Life
Atlantic Records

Their first album on a major label since leaving indie shop Century Media, Shadows Fall is back and, to beat a cliche to death, they’re better than ever. Their last couple of albums have been lacking (to say the least) as they experimented and failed with some of the trends of the day. The fact that the first song is called “Redemption” is more than apropos, and not lost on people like me; that is, formeer fans that were getting more and more tired of the band trying to do what they could to stay relevant by picking up fad after fad. This album is a return to their metal / punk roots and it shows that THAT is what they needed to do to stay relevant. The riffs are fast and technical, and the vocals—normally a weak point on any Shadows Fall record—are way better. Sometime since 2004’s The War Within, vocalist Brian Fair learned to sing. And considering this album has their first experiment with a ballad, the song “Another Hero Lost” about a fallen soldier in Iraq, it was in the nick of time. I personally would have liked them to stay on a smaller label, because I’m worried to see what major label life will do to their music, but for now, I’m happy with Threads of Life, and if you like a new twist on old thrash, I think you will too.

Recommended Tracks: "Another Hero Lost", "Redemption" ... shit, all of them.

Baby Huey will pestare your ass if you use black olives. Seriously.

Dishful of Metal Archives


I make my pesto with cashews. Cheaper and quicker.
And you can use rocket together with basil if you need a big batch.


Good call Claudia. I like pine nuts, and they are the traditional nut for it, but they go rancid really quick and they're hella expensive, so I almost never use them. I either use no nuts, or I use half the amount of walnuts. The cashews are a great idea.

And yeah ... rocket is great in everything. It's the rooster sauce of the lettuce world.


Thanks again man, nice one.

I'll email you later with some ideas. I need help dude.


What's a good substitute for the pine nuts? My wife's severely allergic.


You'll probably get the closest to texture and flavor with macadamia nuts or blanched almonds, but cashews and walnuts also work really well.


I made a creamy pesto a few years ago for a green salad - I've tried to recreate it ever since, but can't seem to get the right mix of herbs, oil, and cream base. Thoughts?


For something like that, I would personally cut the oil down to about 3/4 c and add about 1/4 - 1/2 c of buttermilk, for some extra acidity. I think the fat in the cream might deaden the herb flavor. I'd leave the herbs as is, but you may need to add a bit of salt.

That's a really neat idea and something I might need to try.


Hmm...I wonder what pesto, using pecans, would be like...too oily?


I don't think it'd be too oily at all. I'd cut back on them a bit, and toast them first like any nut. I omitted mentioning them only because I'm personally not a huge fan.


i look forward to this column every week and i've been getting some use out of the recipes. thanks for that. i feel it's making me less of a cultural moron.


Well that just makes my day, johnny. way to keep a guy motivated.


This is such a nice place. Sometimes I like to come here and talk about nuts.


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