Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sorrel-Hazelnut Pesto (and Lemon Pepper Tofu Redux)

What is sorrel? It's an herb (or a herb, depending on where you live) that in my world isn't often seen outside my garden. It's a perennial, extremely easy to grow, hardy, doesn't attract pests, and non-invasive but it does get bigger every year and is propagated best by dividing. I actually tried to dig it out two years ago during a garden renovation, but missed some bits, and you know how it is, the survivors get to live, it's one of the earliest plants to unfurl out of the frozen Canadian soil, and it's good to eat. This is what it looks like right now, more or less at its growth peak for the year:

Sorrel is hardy and yet tender. When the leaves are exposed to the kind of heat that is generated by a stove, they break down into mush, which is why you never see recipes for "braised sorrel" or "boiled sorrel" but only for "sorrel sauce." It's also good as a salad herb, and raw has a tart, lemony taste that is pleasant, but you want to mix it with other kinds of greens.

But there's more to sorrel than "sorrel sauce." Here's a recipe from me:

Sorrel-Hazelnut Pesto

2 cups sorrel leaves, coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/3 cup parsley
1/3 cup hazelnuts, lightly roasted (skin on is okay)
1/8 cup hazelnut oil (or olive oil)
1/8 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Put everything into a food processor and grind it up; this recipe makes about 1 cup.

If you're used to basil-based pesto, you will find this quite mild. I like to mix it with about 1/3 part "almonzano" (vegan parmesan) just before serving.

Almonzano (by Bryanna Clark Grogan, who deserves to go to heaven just for this recipe)

Use a food processor or mini-chopper or spice mill for this recipe, rather than a blender.

1 cup chopped peeled almonds
4 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
2 tsp light soy or chickpea miso
1/2 tsp salt

Process the ingredients until as fine as possible. Stir to get rid of any lumps. Place in a covered container or shaker and keep refrigerated.

If you're not familiar with this ode to joy, what are you waiting for? Remember the "parmesan" you used to shake out of the Kraft container as a kid? This is the same thing, only tastier, and vegan! (I'm taking the liberty of exchanging the walnuts in the link for the almonds in the original Nonna's Italian Kitchen recipe because I love love love the latter so much and I apologize if I am infringing copyright by doing so. Nonna's Italian Kitchen is a great cookbook—I own it, and if you don't, you should.)

To continue with the recipe, then, cook your pasta—I used funghetti because that's what I had, but any small pasta shape will do (here's an awesome link on small pasta shapes). Save some pasta cooking water (for two people about 1/3 cup), and drain the pasta. Pour it back into the pot, add about an equal amount of lima beans and the reserved pasta water, and as much of the pesto/almonzano mixture as seems good to you, stirring gently with a rubber spatula and tasting as you go. You may need to add more salt.

The lemon pepper tofu has been preying on my mind, so I did a variation on it today. The variation consisted in marinating the tofu in a mixture of lemon juice, lemon peel, garlic, and olive oil, and then mixing the lemon pepper with some whole-wheat flour and frying the tofu instead of baking it. It was tasty, but different:

I had some of the marinade left over, so I parboiled a julienned carrot in the pasta water as it was heating up and made a little carrot-cilantro-sunflower sprout salad. Friends, everybody who has a bird feeder has sunflower sprouts galore just now. Yes, I am going to let some of them grow. No, I cannot let all of them grow (my dad has already characterized my gardening style, better known to myself as "genius," as "chaos"). Yes, you can eat them. Yes, they rock! And they're cute, too!

So here's the whole deal all brought together:

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