Friday, June 25, 2010

Parve Pesto

I'm at my parents' this evening, and my mom is reading to Nomi and Dina. Nomi is barking like a dog at Dina, because it absolutely cracks Dina up every time.

My daughters' ethnicities met and did a tap dance today. We made challah together, followed by pesto. I'm amazed at all the things Nomi can do now when she helps me cook. She stands in her Learning Tower and counts out 1/2 cups of flour, hands me eggs, measures teaspoons from bags of yeast and bowls of sugar. She helped peel garlic, tear leaves on sage, and rolls the challah dough into balls and snakes. When we cook together, she's learning math, taking turns and observing the scientific wonder that is combining disparate ingredients into something delicious. Cooking is magic.

The sage pesto was not a Genoese pesto by any stretch of the imagination. I stumbled into it quite by accident. I knew I was using the cold chicken from last night's debacle in a salad of some sort, but I couldn't figure out how to make it taste good. I had in my head the refrigerator taste of fast food/big box chain chicken salads, they having forever ruined for me what really is a logical and delicious combination. Luckily, this was exceptional chicken, that was impervious even to my lemon-sherry-caper-oregano disaster of the night before.

I was sitting at my desk and my eyes chanced upon a bon appetite magazine I'd had out from the week before. Low and behold, on the cover was a grilled chicken on lettuce recipe, with cucumber and radishes, dressed with a tarragon pesto. Now, I didn't have tarragon, but I did have a huge bunch of sage and parsley. Could it work? Had someone done it before? I set off into the interwebs in search of some basic guidelines and electronic gumption.

I came upon a Food Network recipe that looked simple enough to play off of, and was blessedly parve (did not contain milk, therefore could be served with meat). Truly, maybe that's the main property of any "pesto" - it lends itself to many variables. I tinkered, I adjusted, Nomi helped juice the lemon, and we had a slightly spicy, scrumptiously smooth, sage pesto.

It went over the sliced radishes and cucumbers, tossed through a bit of the lettuce, and was drizzled on the sliced chicken. The crisp light flavors of the cucumbers and radishes cut through the spice. The chicken went perfectly with the sage, with a bit of the lemon creeping through. All in all, it was lovely lunch.

The pesto traveled here with us, for a Shabbat meal at my parents. We tossed it through with Barilla Whole Wheat Spaghetti - a rare whole wheat pasta that retains a texture worthy of pasta. The slight nutty flavor of the whole wheat stood up well to the intense flavor of the pesto. If I was cooking pasta specifically for this pesto, I would use whole wheat pasta again, and even MY husband would enjoy it.

Shabbat dinner was: Nomi-made Challah, Freshly Picked Blueberries, Freshly Picked Sugar Snap Peas served raw, Farmstand Strawberries, Chilled Cantelope-Mango Soup with Lemon, Zucchini Quiche, and Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Sage Pesto. It was light and lovely.

Sage Pesto with Chicken and Salad
Adapted from Bon Appetit, April 2009 and from Food Network

1 cup walnuts, toasted
1 cup sage
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley
3/4 cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced or crushed
juice of 1 lemon
2 T apple cider vinegar

olive oil
chicken breast, pounded flat
flour, salt, pepper

1. Heat 2 T olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour. Place in skillet, and cook until golden brown on both sides. Remove from pan and tent.

2. Meanwhile slice and prep cucumbers, radishes and lettuce. Place all pesto ingredients in a food processor. Combine until smooth. Add more olive oil as needed for desired thickness.

3. Plate ingredients. Share and enjoy.


  1. sooooo... what are the chances of receiving a loaf of challah? perhaps another visit to the pool at casa bingel-lee? :)

  2. Sounds like a fair trade :P This week's batch has been claimed by my folks, Mr. Tap tap, Daddy Tap Tap, and their helper, Caillou. I will, however, reserve you a loaf from next week's. Drop me a line re:days and times!

  3. Sage pesto, what a great idea. I have a sage plant in my garden that's getting a bit shaggy and a gallon size ziploc of parsley in the fridge. Will definitely give this a try.

  4. It turned out wonderfully, and we froze out leftovers. Also, it's sans dairy, which will work well for your Maia. If it's tasting like its too spicy for your guys, I recommend cutting back on the garlic, and increasing the vinegar/lemon juice. Let me know how it turns out!