Pesto - been there, done that? Wait!
March 6th, 2009

Ok, is everyone done with yawning? Well, if the standard homemade pesto – as scrumptious as it can be – doesn’t float your boat anymore, but you are open for a new take on a real classic – read on. I’m certain that every ambitious home cook has his or her own favorite recipe for how to marry basil, pine nuts and parmesan to a finger-licking yummy concoction. Whether you manually chop, use a mortar or food-processor, as long as you make it yourself and avoid the ready-made glasses supermarkets offer, you’re already in good shape!

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But what would you say, if I offered a different kind of pesto, one with a fairly unusual main ingredient? An ingredient, that I have prepared and eaten for the very first time just two weeks ago. An ingredient, that neither test eaters nor guests were able to identify and one that I (shame on me!) mindlessly threw away in the past. Curious?

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A big thank you has to go to Anke who works for my publishing house: when we had our latest Küchengötter cooking class (wanna see the movie? it’s in German though) I eavesdropped noticed her raving about a homemade pesto with small radish greens and hazelnuts. Did she say radish greens? The bunch of small red radishes I spotted a couple of days later at the local market looked perfect (one with lots of snappy greens, not those poor, wilted leaves), so I gave it a go and tried varying amounts as well as various oils. Nut oil turned out quite overpowering, olive oil a tad too strong, almost harsh… rapeseed oil on the other hand ensured a balanced and well-rounded result. The slightly peppery leaves give the pesto not only a vivid green color, but a hard to describe, oh-so delicious taste. And my window sill basil plant gets its well deserved rest.

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OBTW
In case you ever wondered, why your homemade pesto with extra-virgin olive oil sometimes has a slightly bitter taste, Cook’s Illustrated explained it in their March & April 2009 issue, page 30:
Extra-virgin olive oil contains bitter tasting polyphenols coated by fatty acids, which prevent them from dispersing. If the oil is emulsified in a food processor, these polyphenols get squeezed out and the liquid mix turns bitter.
The magazine further claims this is only a problem when mixing dressing or mayo, because in pesto the other ingredients as nuts and cheese are robust enough to cope with it. This is where I disagree, I rarely prepare pesto with extra-virgin olive oil in the food processor anymore – because of the indeed noticeable bitter outcome.

Toast the chopped and skinned hazelnuts in a small pan over medium heat until golden brown and fragrant, then set aside. Peel and coarsely mince the garlic, then grate the cheese.

Cut off the leaves from the small red radishes (I didn’t use the thicker stems) and wash them thoroughly under cold water as they tend to be quite sandy. Throw in a salad spinner until dry or pad dry on some paper towel.

Put radish greens, toasted hazelnuts, grated cheese, a pinch of salt and black pepper as well as about 3/4 of the rapeseed oil into your kitchen blender and briefly blend until the pesto reached your desired consistency (of course you can also use a mortar). Add more rapeseed oil, depending on how saucy you want the pesto to be, then season to taste with more salt, pepper or grated cheese. Keeps in the fridge (always keep the surface well covered with oil) for several days.

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Pesto with radish greens

Recipe source: own creation, inspired by Anke

Active time: ~15 minutes

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Ingredients (yields ~175g):

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40g radish greens (from organically grown small red radishes)

1 garlic clove

25g chopped hazelnuts (without skins)

40g Grana Padano

coarse sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

80-100 g rapeseed oil

serve with mozzarella di bufala, on crostini or pasta

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