Just a Little Nutty, vol.1

Walnut/Parsley Pesto

About a year ago Jeanne subscribed to Bon Appetit magazine. We had some extra airline miles or reward points, who knows, so she thought we would take a chance on a new subscription. I was skeptical. We have a subscription to Saveur, and in the past we have gotten Fine Cooking, Gourmet, and the much-missed Cuisine (now defunct). But for some reason Bon Appetit seemed to be equated with Good Housekeeping in my mind. But surprise, surprise, we have gotten some fine recipes out of this publication. The December issue arrived the other day and the theme splashed across the cover was “Cookies!”. So of course it was the holiday issue and I immediately said there wouldn’t be much to cook from this issue.

However that evening there I was with the magazine open on the counter and ingredients for a Bucatini with Walnut-Parsley Pesto gathered next to it. As I browsed past the Buche de Noel and the Ombre Rainbow cookies this recipe jumped out and I knew it sounded good and that we pretty much had everything needed to prepare it.  Of course, with some make-do substitutions.

First off, we had two sizes of bucatini, a long,hollow, macaroni-like pasta, but not enough of either size to make a meal. So, I used both. Luckily, even though they were technically of different overall diameters, the wall thickness of each was the same and so they would cook at the same rate.

noodles

Bucatini, big (right) and small (left)

Now onward to the recipe, with a few apologies to Bon Appetit.

Ingredients

Adapted to yield 2 servings

  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 2 Piquillo peppers and 2 Piparras peppers.  The original recipe called for 3 pickled Calabrian peppers or 1/2 Fresno chile with seeds.  Calabrian peppers seem to be the darling of the food world these days but we didn’t have any.  The Piquillo are sweet pimento-like peppers and Piparras are small pickled, mild, chili-like peppers.  We used Matiz brand of both.  Pimento and Pepperoncini, seeded, would be an acceptable substitutions.
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely grated
  • 3/4 ounce Parmesan, finely grated (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 – 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 3/8 pound bucatini or spaghetti (about 6 ounces), broken in half lengthwise
Ingredients measured and ready to go

Ingredients measured and ready to go

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Toast walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until fragrant and slightly darkened, 8–10 minutes. Let cool.  You can do this in a dry skillet too but watch carefully so you don’t scorch the walnuts.
  • Reserve 2 Tbs. of the walnuts.   Pulse remaining walnuts in a food processor or blender until very finely chopped (but not pasty). Reserve remaining walnuts for serving. Remove stems from Piparras peppers; add Piquillo and Piparras peppers to food processor. Pulse until coarsely chopped. Transfer walnut/pepper mixture to a medium bowl and stir in garlic, Parmesan, oil, and parsley. Season pesto with salt and pepper.  Taste to adjust seasoning.  You should be able to taste the walnuts, garlic, cheese and parsley without any one of them taking over.  Try to avoid eating the whole bowl before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.

    Ingredients, chopped and mixed waiting for the pasta to be cooked

    Ingredients, chopped and mixed waiting for the pasta to be cooked

  • Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente.   Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot and add pesto along with 1/4 cup pasta cooking liquid. Toss, adding splashes of cooking liquid as needed, until pesto coats pasta and sauce is glossy.
  • Crush reserved walnuts with the flat side of a knife. Divide pasta among bowls and top with walnuts and more parsley.
  • Do Ahead: Although the pesto can be made ahead, and kept covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days, it hardly seems necessary.  The prep takes little time, there’s no actual cooking involved and the pesto will taste best when freshly make.

I usually like to add a bit of protein so with this dish I coated a few shrimp with Korean chili sauce (G0chujang ) and fried them separately.

Chopped peppers, Shrimp in Koran chili sauce

Chopped peppers, Shrimp in Koran chili sauce

Now when Jeanne cooks a new recipe it is very important that there is a picture. She measures her success on how close her finished dish looks to the photo. I, on the other hand, cook from the recipe.  Pictures are nice but not essential. In this case I think Jeanne would be pleased at how close my shoot-from-the-hip attitude matches the photo.

2plates

Left: Magazine photo from the December, 2015 issue of Bon Appetit magazine.  Right: Curt plating (before adding shrimp)

The final plates that came to our table had the shrimp. Bon Appetit!

plate1

This post begins a series that will center around nuts.  I was please with this dish and, my addition of a couple of shrimp notwithstanding, it’s a pretty simple meatless meal.  The nuts add a richness and texture that is appealing.  The recipe got me thinking about nuts in other well known or not so well known dishes.  In the future I will follow my nose and post some other nut based, flavored or inflected dishes that I hope you will like.

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