Any time’s right for Pesto
Say bye-bye to the basil blues with a new twist on pesto dishes
» Recipes and tips for pesto
There was a time in the mid-1990s when you could not escape the overpowering aroma of pesto wafting out of every office microwave. Some of us got so slap-happy with the basil and blender that we can barely stifle an eye-roll now when the stuff reappears in a panini or stuffed chicken breast. That is so last century!
But while pesto went mainstream -- suffering the same mediocre fate as supermarket tubs of hummus or guacamole -- it continued a double life in the gourmet repertoire, as I discovered on a recent trip to the East Coast. At farmer's markets from June to mid-July, garlic scapes were all the rage, snapped up by cooks newly initiated to these curly tendrils that are cut off each spring to encourage bulb growth and that used to be thrown away.
What gastronomes love best for these tough, scallion-like strands is to pulverize them into a heavenly, creamy, fragrant pesto that reawakened in me a memory of how delectable this simple sauce can be -- and I don't even like garlic.
Scapes have come and gone this year, but pesto is back on my mind. Piqued by my scrape with scapes, I proceeded to whir up cilantro, mint, parsley, sage, scallions, watercress, spinach or chili peppers in pestos that substituted almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and pistachios for the traditional pine nuts, which cost as much these days as diesel fuel.
The results weren't always better than plain old basil, it's true, but they were varied enough to sneak into dinner every night for a week, with my husband none the wiser. Try that with a tub of oily supermarket green!