If you have a large mortar or molcajete, this is the time to get it out. The result from grinding this sauce by hand is a slightly more uneven, slightly more interesting texture. Maybe it's the addition of elbow grease that does it - a secret ingredient! In the food processor you get a lovely, more uniform paste. No complaints.
This "sauce" is really a hefty entity in itself. It's a food that makes the main bow down to the sauce. Make proteins and breads mere vehicles for more of it's nutty, herby deliciousness. To be real, a serving of vegetables resides in a dollop of this pesto. It was inspired simply by my backyard herbs that are screaming to be plucked and put to use. I have chives that just keep coming, a five by two foot patch of indestructible thyme and some tender spreading mint. I also am a fan of dates and herbs in many combinations. Sweet, herbal, and savory = delicious!
Where can this sauce go? Where can't it go is a better question. Fish and seafood, flatbread with chickpeas, stewed white beans or fava beans, crusty bread with crumbly cheese, falafel, rice, lamb burgers, grilled vegetables, broiled eggplant, grilled tofu, pasta right out of the pot, roasts, grain croquettes...try it and see what comes to mind.
I like simple, and this one is pretty simple. Once you get over the sheer beauty of all those herbs they can be prepped. Don't be afraid of the thyme. Yeah, it's a lot of tiny leaves. Prepping thyme is no line cook's dream duty, but it can be done without tedium. Grab those little stalks about half an inch from the top and gently grip the stem between your index finger and thumb while sliding down from top to bottom, removing all the tiny leaves at once. Then simply pinch off the whole remaining top. The stem at the top is tender enough to grind up.
Make it a little meditation. Stop and smell every once in a while and think of the scene in the movie Elizabeth with Cate Blanchette where she is lazily waving a bouquet of thyme under her nose while contemplating some European renaissance topic, or more likely, masking some European renaissance odor.
I find that chopping the herbs fairly small reduces the chance that you will have to blend all the texture out of the mixture to avoid stringy bits that get overlooked by the processor blades and when using mortar and pestle it just makes it easier.
The parsley and mint are chopped roughly but fairly small. The thyme leaves are left whole. The chives are sliced fairly small. I used salted pistachios and therefore my recipe calls for no salt. If you are using unsalted, then start with about 1/4 Tsp and work your way up from there, adding more to taste. You will need the zest of one whole lemon and then all the juice most likely to make 1/4 C. I have been known for using raw garlic at a nearly medicinal level, but in this sauce I held back to let the other flavors shine. If you want more punch, kick up the grated garlic amount for sure!
Here you can see the texture I prefer to stop processing at. If you want it smoother, continue. If you want it more varied, pulse until you are satisfied. I simply drop all the ingredients in the bowl and do a combination of pulsing and scraping down the bowl, as it's fairly thick. You may also thin this sauce. I recommend adding water or more lemon juice. I wanted to avoid the olive oil overtaking the flavors. If you add a little more water, make sure you adjust the salt and lemon juice for balance. I always encourage everyone to adjust the salt and acid balance to their taste.
Pistachio Pesto shown here with broiled cod and chopped pistachio garnish. And below on grilled bread with Manouri and chopped pistachio, because toast. Just because toast. That's still a thing, right?
- 1 C salted shelled pistachios
- 1/3 C finely chopped parsley
- 1/3 C finely chopped chives
- 3 Tbsp finely chopped mint
- 1/4 C fresh thyme leaves
- 1 Tsp grated garlic
- Zest of one lemon
- 1/4 C lemon juice
- 2 dates pitted and roughly chopped
- 1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
Shell the pistachios and measure enough for one cup. Wash and pat the herbs dry. Pluck the tender leaf bunches from the parsley and mince them roughly. Pick the mint leaves and do the same. Chop the chives to about 1/4 inch. Pluck enough thyme leaves for 1/4 C loosely packed. Grate the garlic on a microplane or mince/pulp the garlic with a knife. Zest one whole lemon and then squeeze 1/4 C lemon juice. The dates need only be cut in about 8 pieces each. Combine all the ingredients and 1/2 C olive oil in a food processor bucket or large mortar. Pulse or grind until you have a thick cohesive paste. There should be small visible pistachio pieces.
The sauce will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks.
Yield: 1 1/4 C