Let’s party! It’s the weekend!
I must’ve been Italian in one of my previous lives’ cause I love everything about traditional Italian food including the garlic overload & crusty bread that goes with almost everything.
I enjoy making Basil Pesto Sauce when it rains, when friends are coming over, or simply because I just love classic Pesto alla Genoese. In short, any day is Pesto day for me.
While the original is an ultra-flavourful 5 ingredient combination of fresh Italian basil leaves, pinenuts, garlic, and parmesan cheese in extra virgin olive oil, here is a healthier version using Broccoli so you can eat guilt free. No added sugar, no cooking, healthy olive oil and plenty of walnuts!
When I posted some Baked Pesto fish on Instagram a few months ago, I was asked about various substitutes for pine nuts, Parmesan cheese etc. That got me trying out a variant of the classic recipe, one that would be easier to make, using locally sourced and easily available ingredients, Broccoli Walnut Pesto.
In fact, the first thing I ever cooked was Potato Gnocchi in Pesto Sauce at the age of 12. Been a fan of it ever since. And then I received this beautiful book on Regional Italian Cooking as a wedding gift which totally helped me expand my knowledge about the intricacies of various regional wines, cheese, types of pasta, meat & sauces. It has, and will continue to remain one of my most treasured gifts to date.
This post is thus my tribute to the Arts, culinary & otherwise, the very reason I am here today writing to you. While we all dedicate a large amount of time & energy to our academic & professional lives, our hobbies and passions often tend to take a backseat somewhere in our lacklustre routine. Be it literary dreams, a passion for the fine arts, sporting activities or singing, it is these very pursuits that make for wonderful healing, vents for our creativity and stress, no matter how difficult the times.
No wonder then, that 2020 helped me re-discover myself and my calling, like many others I know. Better late than never, what say?!!
Recipe for Presto! Broccoli Walnut Pesto
Ingredients (Serves 6-8 Persons)
For the Pesto
- ¼ cup walnuts, lightly roasted
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3-6 ice cubes
- 2 cups broccoli florets, blanched in salt water
- 10-12 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
- 3 – 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 4 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated / grated cheddar
- ¼ teaspoon salt or as per your taste
- 1 small baguette, sliced and toasted
- Chilli oil to drizzle (optional)
- made with 1 tablespoon chilli flakes infused in 3 tablespoons warm extra virgin olive oil & ½ teaspoon dried herbs for 2-4 hours)
- 10-12 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 2 tablespoons sliced black olives
- Blanch the broccoli florets in some water that has already come to a rolling boil with ½ teaspoon salt for 2-4 minutes. Once semi cooked or al dente & bright green in colour, drain thoroughly & keep aside.
- In the blender, grind the walnuts, basil leaves, salt & garlic cloves to a rough paste.
- Now add the rest of the ingredients namely broccoli, cheese, 2 tbsp olive oil & 4 ice cubes. Blend until well combined & a coarse paste is formed. Test for salt and garlic. Add more ice cubes if required.
- Remove into an air-tight container and to preserve well, top with the other 2 tbsp (be generous) drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
- To assemble, spread a thick layer of broccoli pesto on to each slice of crostini and then top with sliced cherry tomatoes and olives.
- Finish with a drizzle of the infused chilli oil or some freshly ground pepper.
- If you do not have access to parmesan cheese, replace with locally available cheddar cheese.