The Poor (Wo)Man’s Pesto
Claire’s PCV Kitchen…a staple sauce & spread made for a tight budget.
This recipe was inspired by Peace Corps Response Volunteer Hailey Fox. Hailey is working with various deaf advocacy organizations in the Philippines for the next six months. Currently she is in Cebu and we’ve been sharing “war stories”, food and company. Originally Hailey served in Cameroon and often made this dish in her own PCV kitchen.
Traditional pestos are simple and fast, however, some of their common ingredients like Parmigiano-Reggiano and pine nuts are anything but affordable. This recipe uses some easy to find substitutions and maintains ease of preparation without loosing its powerful flavor. Use it for anything from a pasta sauce to to just licking spoonfuls out of the storage container. Hey, it happens!
Cooks tip: This recipe call for a mortal & pestle, if you don’t have one, you too can have pesto! Simply mince all the choppable bits and mix together with the wet ingredients in a serving dish or storage container.
A mortar and pestle can be found at most department stores in the Philippines. The ones of usable, but frugal quality cost around php200 – php350 (about $4.75-$8.30). Go for the stone or metal options as opposed to the flimsy plastic ones available some places. I went for a metal version because sometimes the stone-on-stone reverberations give me the heebejeebes. That is the technical term.
When purchasing a mortar and pestle, weight is important. While pounding and grinding things, you want the pestle to be heavy enough to do most of the work for you. Also, you don’t want your mortar flying all over the table while you’re at it. This simple kitchen appliance can be used for grinding all types of dried spices or making pastes out of garlic and ginger. Always a nice thing to have around as whole spices have more flavor than their pre-ground counterparts.
Ingredients: (makes about 1/2cup+ pesto)
- 1.5 bunches basil - Leaves plucked from stem, rinsed and left to dry for 10+min. ANY kind of basil can be used. for this particular recipe, I used 1/2 traditional basil & 1/2 lemon basil.
- 3 cloves garlic – Finely chopped
- 1/4c roasted peanuts without skins – peanut skins add a bitter flavor. Easiest way have roasted peanuts w/0 skin is to buy them boiled and skinned then toast them yourself on the stove. Directions below.
- Olive oil
- Salt & Pepper
*Chef’s Tip: To make this a RAW pesto, just replace roasted peanuts with raw almonds or cashews!
For the Peanuts:
- Coarsely chop the boiled and peeled peanuts
- Put in dry pan over low-medium heat
- Agitate regularly, allowing the nuts to brown slightly on all sides (CAREFUL! Nuts take some time to brown, but can go from toasty to burnt in a matter of seconds. Keep them moving, watch the color closely and don’t turn the heat up)
- Remove from stove, onto a plate & cool
Preparation of the pesto:
1. Coarsely chop the basil and put into mortar. Add garlic and begin to pound. Vary your pounding and grinding of the ingredients in order to blend the pieces well and pulverize them into a nice paste.
2. Add the chopped peanuts to the mixture and continue crushing into a pasty consistency. Peanuts are easy to grind and will assist in breaking down the other ingredients into a more agreeable texture.
3. Add between 1/8 – 1/4 cup olive oil. Mix in a bit at a time until you achieve a thickness you like. Too little oil will make the paste too thick and not pliable, whereas too much will make it heavy, with clumps of oil sitting on top.
4. Add salt & pepper to taste. Stir & enjoy!
- Pasta…obviously. You can find all kinds of pasta in the Philippines from regular ‘ol spaghetti to quinoa elbow macaroni. Take a tour on the pasta train!
- Pesto & kiseo sandwiches (or cheese of any kind really)
- Spread for sandwiches or crackers
- Dollop on top of grilled chicken (in the Philippines you can often ask your local bbq-han to leave the sauce off after grilling, replace it with this!)
- Serve on-top of cucumbers
- Add onions!
- Replace peanuts with toasted almonds or sunflower seeds for tasty substitutions.