May 11, 2011

Chive Pesto with Steamed New Potatoes

I’ve been waiting for weeks, just biding my time. By late April we were hitting the 60s, 70s and once, even 80 during the day. But then it was right back down to the low 40s at night. Still too cold. Finally in early May we hit a stretch where it didn’t drop below 48 at night and I knew it was time.

So on Sunday I pulled up to the nursery. I strolled past the trees and shrubs. I sauntered through the annuals and perennials. I paused every now and then to breathe in the familiar scent of the lilacs and admire the gorgeous hues of the azaleas and hydrangeas. I was tempted to linger amid the beautiful blooms, but I was there for a reason.

So I kept walking and read the signs. “Brandy Boy,” said one. “Early Wonder,” Green Zebra,” and “Glory” weren’t far beyond. I was in the tomato section and that meant I was getting closer. Straight past the eggplant, a left at zucchini, and there I was….Culinary Herbs.

I knew what I was there to buy, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to browse first. There was some wonderfully fragrant spearmint, right next to the slightly sharper peppermint. Italian parsley neighbored the Indian cilantro. The licoricey tarragon sat up near the chervil, its Provencal compatriot.

Finally I made my way over to the herbs that were destined to land on my cart. First there was the sweet basil, an herb that makes everything taste like summer. In the warm months I add it to almost any pasta or tomato dish. Next was the thyme. This herb is a true workhorse. It’s great with everything from poultry to roasted potatoes to soups and stews. I also picked up some Thai basil. I’d grown Thai basil for the first time last year and was surprised at how often I ended up using it. Its flavor is similar to Italian sweet basil but with a distinctive twist that puts you right in Asia. I use it in stir fries and Asian noodle dishes and, of course, Thai chicken basil. My final purchase was an impulse buy – a small cayenne plant for my husband.

At home I repotted the herbs, gave them a nice drink of water, then set them out on my deck. I wasn’t going to cook with them just yet. They still needed time to settle and grow.

Chives (next to my newly planted Thai basil)
But I had a beautiful bunch of chives, just waiting to be eaten. Chives are perennial plants, which means that they lie dormant through the cold winter, then reemerge in the spring. By early May, my chives were already growing beautifully, ready for their first trim. I decided to show off their mild, oniony flavor in a chive pesto.

In this recipe, the chives stand in for the basil that’s normally used in pesto. Parsley adds some substance and flavor as well. The rest of the ingredients are standard for pesto – garlic, lemon juice, nuts (I used pine nuts) and olive oil. Only Parmesan cheese is omitted in this recipe. You end up with a mildly oniony, rich pesto. I tossed it with some steamed potatoes. The contrast between the bright, flavorful pesto and the mild, creamy potatoes was fabulous.

I think this pesto would also be great tossed with pasta, drizzled over grilled chicken, or used as a sandwich spread with grilled vegetables.

Your potatoes will need to steam for about 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re tender, so get those going first.

Now, make the pesto. Combine your chives, parsley, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor.

Pulse several times until everything is chopped fine. You’ll probably need to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times.

Then, with your processor running, add the olive oil until the mixture combines into a thick paste.

Transfer the pesto to a bowl and add the lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Once your potatoes are cooked…

…toss them with the pesto.

And serve!

Chive Pesto with Steamed New Potatoes

Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit

1 pound new potatoes (such as baby Yukon gold), larger potatoes cut in half
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (packed) chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup (packed) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, or pine nuts (I used pine nuts)
1 garlic clove 
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

1.      Bring 2 inches of water to boil in the bottom of a steamer.

2.      Clean potatoes and put them in a steamer basket. Cover basket and steam potatoes over medium heat until they are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.

3.      Meanwhile, combine chives, parsley, nuts, and garlic in a processor. Pulse until finely chopped. With machine running, gradually add olive oil through feed tube and process until incorporated.

4.      Transfer chive pesto to a small bowl. Stir in lemon juice, then 2 tablespoons water. Season pesto with salt and pepper.

5.      Toss 2/3 of the pesto with warm potatoes. Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve potatoes warm with remaining pesto.

Serves 4

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