Saturday, December 22, 2012

Let's Get Nutty!

Hey howdy!

It's time to explore our inner Daffy Duck! Woo-woo-hoo-woo-hoo-woo-hoo! It's time to get nuts!

Daffy was funnier in the 40s when he was completely batsh** crazy!
Nuts are one of those awesome ingredients that somehow get overlooked a whole heckuvalot. We snack on them once in  a while, eat butterized forms of them on bread and watch our friends cradle their Epi-pens should they be allergic and in the vicinity of them.

But what is the real value of nuts? Well, nutritionally they're supposed to be rather good for you. They're full of protein and vitamins, making them an ideal meat replacement in most meals. But, they also can be a good ingredient in everyday cooking.

One of the more obvious examples where nuts are used to provide body and flavour is in pesto. Pesto is usually made using basil and pine nuts, but due to the prohibitive cost of pine nuts and their penchant to go stale fairly quickly, they aren't always the most logical of ingredients. Many basil pesto recipes I've seen specifically permit the omission of pine nuts.

Me, I figured I'd not even bother in the first place and use a cheaper (and maybe healthier?) alternative using almonds. And, to give it a much different, zingier flavour profile, I say let's go with cilantro instead of basil! Turns out, after some Internet research, that this isn't a terribly original idea, but what in cooking really is? It's still tasty, goldarnit!

Almond-Cilantro Pesto

- 1 cup cilantro leaves, cleaned and stemmed
- 1/4 cup raw almonds
- 1/2 tsp sumac powder (optional - sumac can be found at Middle Eastern grocers - it has a turmeric-like earthiness, but also a nice bitterness that enhances citrus flavours)
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 tsp capers
- 2 tsp olive oil


- Combine all ingredients except oil together in a food processor.
- Pulse together adding a little bit of oil at a time, until all ingredients are well combined into a chunky paste.

Tasty, green and bright!

This is one of those highly functional recipes that can be used in many different ways. You can mix the pesto with other ingredients to make a tasty pasta dish, you can spread it on bread for a sandwich topping, you could even cobble together a salad dressing with the pesto as a base. It's also similar to chimichurri, which is an Argentine form of pesto used as a topping on steak.

Quick lunch - toast, pesto and cherry tomatoes

So, this is just one example of how to get nutty with your food. I'll be back soon with a post on using nuts as a meat substitute. Stay tuned!

'Till then, enjoy!