Tuesday, March 5, 2013

easy parsley pesto

I talk a lot about how I compromise and substitute in my recipes here in Ethiopia.  I do this almost exclusively because an ingredient is simply unavailable.  But I've been thinking a lot about how substituting can simply be about using up what's already in your refrigerator.  If you are not living in a third world country, maybe you simply don't feel like going to the grocery store to get that ONE ingredient.  Swap it out for another.  This is what I did when I found a delicious pesto recipe and fresh basil was no where to be found.  Fresh bunches of parsley, on the other hand are always in my home.

Parsley Pesto with walnuts  (adapted from a recipe in the March issue of Real Simple)
1 lb Penne pasta (the ones with the lines in the sides so the pesto sticks well)
2 1/2 to 3 cups of flat parsley leaves
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
juice from a small lemon or lime
4 cloves garlic minced
5-6 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tspsalt
1/4 tsp pepper
about 1 cup ground pork, turkey, or Italian sausage

In a food processor pulse the parsley, walnuts, cheese, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.  Slowly drizzle in a few tablespoon of the oil and pulse until combined.  Add more until the consistency is right.  Taste and adjust for salt or pepper if needed.  Set aside.

Brown the sausage in a skillet and break up into very small bits.  If not using Italian sausage add salt, pepper,  garlic powder and onion powder.  Just a little of each. Set aside.

Cook the pasta al dente and save 1 cup of the cooking water.  Add the sausage to the pasta in a large bowl and add a big dollop of pesto.  Add in a little of the pasta water and stir to coat.  Keep adding pesto and water until it's coated to your liking.

This pesto just gets better the next day.  You could definitely keep the pesto in a small jar in the refrigerator for a few days to let the flavors melt even more.  My girls thought the pesto was a bit too spicy from the garlic so next time I might add a tad less or try roasting the garlic first so the flavor is milder.  I don't know about you, but I like my pesto to have a sharp garlic flavor.  There was more for Justin and I that night which is just fine.
I served this pesto with prosciutto, date and caramelized onion flat bread.  The sweetness from the dates paired well with the pesto.  I won't insult your intelligence by typing out the "recipe" for this flat bread.  It's so darn easy.  Your favorite pizza dough recipe will do (just roll it out very thin). Here's my favorite dough. Saute onions with oil for long enough they start to caramelize and then spread on the dough along with the cooked prosciutto and chopped dates.  Bake until crispy!

The girls turned their noses up at the dates and onions on this flat bread.  Some night the kids just end up a little hungry after all is said and done.  I am a believer of making sure your dinner line up includes "adult" choices too.  In my house if my child squinches her nose up at what lies on their plate and says something like "I didn't want xyz,  I wanted abc!".  I quickly let said child know that I'm not only cooking for them.  There are other people who live in this family too!  Some nights I need grown up food.

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