Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Red Pepper Pesto

I just love Pesto. Pesto seems to love just about everything. Today, Red Pepper Pesto is my greatest ambition.  It is so easy to make.  Not as easy as a basil pesto, buy hey, roasting and peeling a couple or so red peppers is worth the tiny bit of trouble for the great flavor it provides.  It goes well with anything:  raw veggies, baguette toasts, sandwiches, burgers, pasta, pizza, grilled steak and chicken, and tangy cheese such as a feta or goat cheese.  My favorite pairing is with a tangy goat cheese and this pair can be combined with any of the above.  Oh my! How things work out sometimes!

This fabulous, easy recipe is a great addition to any cooks repertoire. It can take any dinner up a pedigree and still be healthy.  It can be a simple pasta sauce for a quick meal or a sauce for grilled meat.  It can also make a simple boring sandwich into something memorable.  Maybe that is going to far, but then maybe not.  It certainly is a healthier, tastier addition than mayo.  I am probably biased about mayo. I have no affinity for the stuff as a sandwich spread, never ate it, but I do keep mayo on hand as an ingredient for recipes.
So here is how I  made Red Pepper Pesto:

I got a couple of very, nice healthy looking red peppers.  As always, organic and local is best but in this case they are neither.  I found these at the grocery store and they just looked fabulous so I bought them.  Aren't they nice!  They are really big, too.  So, if you are using medium sized it would probably take 3 of them.  This recipe does not need exact amounts, in fact, adjust as you like.

I put my oven on HI broil and let it heat up for a couple of minutes.  I roasted them directly under my broiler in my oven.  I put the oven rack on the top position directly under the flame (I have a gas oven) and placed the washed and dried red peppers on a pan (I added foil for quick clean up) and placed them in the oven.  As they char on each side, turn them until they are charred all around.  Mine looked like this:
Place them in a paper or plastic bag, closed it up and let them steam for 5 to 8 minutes.  They will also cool down some while in the bag.
So while waiting for the peppers, I set the oven on 350 degrees to bake and popped in some walnuts I had leftover.  I toasted them for 10 to 15 minutes and took them out when they were aromatic which is how I tell when they are done.  How many times have I forgotten about nuts or coconut in the oven?  I won't tell!!  It is so frustrating to forget something like that.  I know what you are thinking - I should have used a timer.  That would just take the fun out cooking - eliminating risk and all.
Here they are.  They look OK.  But they don't really smell quite right.  I took a closer look (like that was going to help!) I plunged right in and tasted one - yuk.  Bland and rancid.  Now they are compost.

It is always a good idea to smell and/or taste things like nuts and oil just to be sure.  There is nothing like lovingly preparing or baking something just to have it taste weird.  I don't think that rancid oils will make you sick - just undone over a failed recipe.

Moving on to pecans.  I did not have more walnuts, which were definately my first choice, but I did have some whole pecans in the freezer. Feel free to use pine nuts or almonds - whatever floats your boat.

So here we go again, 350 degrees, 10 to 15 minutes and then cool.  I poured mine onto the cutting board and spread them out to cool faster (not like in the picture - but it looks good right!)
In the meantime, I peeled my peppers by peeling off the skins with my hands.  Some people use a towel.  Some people wash them as they do this.  I do not.  I believe that a lot of the flavor just goes down the drain. If you feel the need to rinse, make it quick.  You want your peppers to retain their flavor because they are the star of this recipe!   Speaking of .  . . Aren't they lovely?
They really, really are.

Here is what the skins and innards look like, just in case you wanted to know.  They even had green, little booger things that sometimes come inside of peppers.

So onward we go - oh, by the way, the way we prepared these peppers is the same way you would roast other larger type peppers like . . . green peppers, poblanos, anaheims  and so forth.

Rough chop two large cloves of garlic (or 3 or 4 smaller ones).

Toss all into the food processor (peppers, pecans, garlic) and add 1/4 cup good olive oil.
Puree.  This is what it should look like. Not smooth, but a chunky puree.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt or your favorite kind of salt.  A couple of grinds of black pepper and splash of hot sauce (hot sauce is optional).  Taste again.
Adjust flavorings and when it is to your liking, put it in you favorite bowl and take a picture.  It will last longer.

Did I really just say that?!
We devoured this in one night.  We made open faced sandwiches like this: toasted multi-grain bread, red pepper pesto, crumbled goat cheese,  grilled chicken and scallions (fresh from farmers market - yes it makes a difference)and topped it with a romaine salad mix tossed in a simple balsamic salad dressing (in that order).  It was tasty and pretty darn easy to put together.  Sorry, no picture, but I wish I had one - then it would last longer!  Did I just say that? AGAIN!

For anyone who is wondering - I have seen Pee Wee's playhouse a few times.

Just to take a minute and show you my kitchen companion.  This guy always surprises us, some good, some not so good.  This time, he is completely sacked out on my kids bags.  There is tons of stuff in their bags and are very lumpy and probably a bit pokey.  We do own couches, pillows and even some comfy cat beds.  He must really love those kids a lot . . . or just simply too tired to go any further . . . or sick from drinking from the porcelain drinking fountain . . .just a thought.  But anyway, this is what he was doing while I was making pesto. I am always a bit jealous of this ability to totally relax and cat nap anywhere.


Red Pepper Pesto

2 large roasted red peppers
1/2 cup nuts, toasted (walnuts, pecans, pinenuts, almonds)
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon of salt or to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste
2 or 3 drops of hot sauce (optional)

Put all into a food processor and puree (not smooth but lightly chunky).  Season to taste and enjoy.

Excellent on sandwiches, pasta, pizza, grilled chicken and meats, as dip for raw veggies.

Printable recipe

Nutritional Tidbit for red pepper:  Huge in vitamin A and C in its raw form, but still very good in its cooked form.  Very low in calories.

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