It is only on a trip to Namdhari’s that I get to pick up stuff like parsley. The herb isn’t too easily accessible where I live in India, nor is it integral to Indian cooking. And so when I’m using it, I’m a little outside my comfort zone.
It gives a special high when we get things right outside our comfort zones, doesn’t it?
A learning I’ve assimilated into cooking from corporate experience: take risks, but calculated ones. So I balanced out the parsley with an ingredient that I KNOW will work for Bharatiya taste buds: coriander. If you’re making this pesto for your Indian folks who are unfamiliar with the taste of parsley and don’t take to new flavors quickly, you might want to tip the ratio of coriander:parsley towards coriander.
What is ‘pesto’, did you ask?
Think chutney/pachadi with an Italian twist.
The word ‘pesto’ is the contracted form of the Italian verb pestato, past participle of pestare which means “to pound, to crush”. So in a literal sense, any sauce made by crushing is a ‘pesto’ sauce.
Traditionally pesto contains basil and pine nuts, but some of us have latched on to the literal meaning of the word and go about producing pesto variations as this one. Non-traditional pesto has become so common in the last few years that the original basil and pine nut pesto is now described with a qualifier – ‘Pesto Genovese’.
Incidentally, the Latin verb pestare from which ‘pesto’ gets its name, is also the root of the name for a kitchen equipment used for crushing. Can you guess which kitchen equipment?
- Parsley – 2 packed cups, stems removed
- Coriander – 2 packed cups, stems removed
- Pistachio nuts* – 1/2 cup: I used the roasted, salted variety
- Garlic – 2 cloves
- Peppercorns – 10: I roasted the peppercorns before adding them
- Salt – 1/2 teaspoon
- Extra-virgin olive oil – 1/2 cup
*[I might have used pine nuts in place of pistachios if I had some stocked. Any idea where pine nuts can be bought in Delhi or Bangalore? I don't see them anywhere in stores these days.]
Wash parsley and coriander well and dry them completely. I shake out the excess water and press with a kitchen towel.
Peel garlic. Shell pistachio.
Roast peppercorns on a hot tava on low flame till they get fragrant (about a minute).
If the pistachio nuts you’re using are roasted+salted, use as is, else roast them too like peppercorns for about a minute or two till they turn aromatic.
Let roasted ingredients cool to room temperature.
Grind together pistachio nuts, garlic, peppercorns into powder.
Add salt, parsley and coriander and a tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil. Grind into a coarse paste.
Keep adding extra-virgin olive oil in small quantities to the blender. Continue whizzing till you get the desired consistency. I used half a cup of oil which gave me a cupful of thick pesto. If you want your pesto thinner increase the quantity of oil.
Let it rest for at least an hour before using to allow the flavors to come together.
Spoon the pesto into a dry container with a close-fitting lid. Smooth the surface and gently pour a teaspoon or two of extra-virgin olive oil to cover the surface. This increases pesto’s shelf life and prevents the pesto surface from turning black.
Parsley and coriander pesto remains good for 4-5 days (maybe more, haven’t tried keeping it longer), refrigerated.
Recipes With Pesto:
Edited: this section was getting so long that I thought it deserved a post of its own. Coming up tomorrow :)
Update: here is the post: 3 pesto recipe ideas.
- If using unsalted pistachio, increase the amount of salt in the pesto.
- As a variant, replace pistachio with walnuts or pine nuts.
- All ingredient quantities/proportions are HIGHLY customizable. I’ve given you the optimum for my taste, feel free to experiment. Increase the volume of peppercorns for more heat, pistachios for more nuttiness, parsley and coriander for a stronger herbaceous taste.