Do you ever buy something for a recipe, use just a bit, and then wonder what to do with the rest? We try not to, since that means we might end up wasting food, but sometimes it happens. And it just happened last week. We bought flat-leaved parsley for making Pico de Gallo, and had about 3/4 of the bunch left. Sure, we used some here and there for garnishes, but we still had about half a bunch left that we had to use. So, we put our minds to it, thought about what else we had on hand in the refrigerator, and made up this pesto.
We didn’t follow any recipe for this, so we’ll claim it as a scratchin’ original. We will say, though, that the mix of ingredients just seem to go together; after all, lime and cashews? Very, very common. So, it’s entirely possible that we saw something similar and it just percolated in our brains until we needed it. Of course, you don’t have to use the pesto with pasta; you could also use it for bruschetta or any other place you might use pesto.
Since you’ll be using the zest, consider buying organic limes; at the very least, wash them extremely well before cutting off the zest. We used parsley only because we had it on hand; basil would work, or arugula, or kale, or just about any green. Use your imagination and what is fresh. Parmesan, lovely Parmesan; one of the best cheeses on the planet. Do not insult Parmesan by purchasing something in a green cylinder. For the olive oil, use a true extra-virgin olive oil that you like. And remember, if you taste extra-virgin olive oil, it will be full of flavor (yes, taste it straight); so much that it might make you cough and sputter and your eyes water. Really. If not, it’s not extra-virgin, no matter what the label states (unfortunately, the olive oil business is filled with the unscrupulous). Oh, and as with all pesto, the measurements are approximate.
Procedure in detail:
For the pesto:
Mix garlic and zest. Place the minced garlic in a small bowl with just a pinch of salt and start mashing it with the back of a spoon. Notice that the salt crystals act like little knives to help cut apart the garlic. Keep mashing and grinding until the garlic is a paste, unless you like getting bites of raw garlic. Add the lime zest and set aside.
Toast nuts. Toasting or roasting brings out a lot of flavor in nuts, so it’s something that you’ll want to get into the habit of doing for recipes, including this one. We know, you wanted to skip it; we did, too, but then we knew our dinner wouldn’t be as good as it could be, all to save five minutes. Not a good trade. So, as we did, break out a small skillet, place the cashews in it, and toast the cashews over medium heat until they’re fragrant and browning lightly. There, that wasn’t so bad, was it?
Chop. Since we’re doing such a small amount of pesto, we’ll just use a knife to chop up everything. If we were making a larger amount, we might consider using a food processor. Pull the stems off the parsley, place the nuts next to the leaves, and start chopping. Chop a lot if you want a fine-grained pesto, less if you want a more rustic dish. Stems: we put ours in a small tub for making broth at the end of the week.
Mix. Scrape the nuts and parsley off the cutting board and into the bowl, add the Parmesan and olive oil, and mix. Use the edge of the spoon to break up the cheese and the back of the spoon to mash some of the nuts and parsley. Add more oil, if needed, to make a thick paste.
Taste and season. The moment of truth. Take a taste, add salt and pepper as needed, stir it in and taste again. Keep adjusting until it’s perfect, then cover and refrigerate until needed.
For the pasta:
Boil water. We assume that you made the trofie, so bring a large kettle of salted water to a boil over high heat. For salt, we put in nearly a teaspoon of salt per quart of water, as you want the salted water to add a bit of flavor to the pasta.
Boil pasta. Place the trofie in the water and return to a boil. Keep boiling, checking a piece of pasta every minute or so, until the pasta is cooked through. Boil the pasta long enough so that it is tender on the outside, but just a little chewy on the inside, and definitely not raw-tasting. Our trofie took about 5 minutes. A tip: juice the lime while the pasta is boiling.
Drain well. Once the pasta is done, drain it well, but not so long that it gets cold.
Plate. Divide the pasta between two warmed bowls (we place ours in the oven set on the lowest setting), add the pesto, and stir. Sprinkle with red pepper and drizzle the lime juice on top. Give it all one more quick toss before serving.
Five stars right out of the box (only, of course, it didn’t come from a box)! We think that this is a really, really great pesto. It’s bright flavored from the lime, the cashews are a great pairing (actually, peanuts would also be good), and, of course, Parmesan cheese goes with everything. Adding the bit of crushed red pepper gives it a spicy bite; together with the lime and nuts, this seems like an Italian dish with some Asian influences. With just the pesto for sauce, this dish is light enough for summer, and could also be used as a cold pasta salad for a picnic. We’ll be making this again.