This post is really more about a technique than a recipe. Oh, the recipe is nice, too: a mellow deep-green pesto of spinach and scallions, a little onionier and greenier than the norm. I thought it up as a way to use up leftover scallions or scallion parts, hanging around after recipes that call for only part of a bunch. Sam and I ate our pesto over pasta, with poached eggs–a simple, surprisingly filling summer lunch. It’d also be dandy as a sauce for simply cooked fish, or spread on flatbread or pizza. Just a good, solid, early-summer condiment.
Normally, I make pesto by hand, using the largest knife I have and chopping in handfuls of ingredients at a time. I love making pesto this way, watching the piles of ingredients transform under the blade. But in this case, I had some strong scallions–just cutting them into rough chunks made me tear up. I didn’t relish the idea of chopping and blinking and sniffling for twenty minutes straight. And, in all honesty, I was hungry NOW. I wanted lunch faster than the knife and cutting board would allow.
So I decided to cheat a little, by using the food processor for part of the process. This still isn’t your typical blended pesto–I just used the processor to chop down the solids into a rough mass, about the same as I would with a knife. I tested it for readiness the same way, by pressing a bit of it with my fingers to see if it held together. Then I scooped the finished mess into a bowl and poured over extra virgin olive oil, just like I do with the handmade pesto. The results were damn close to the handmade stuff–I missed a little of the nubbly texture, but it was still leaps and bounds lighter and more interesting than the oily, emulsified pestos that usually come out of processors.
This is a neat trick to know, because it puts really good homemade pesto–the kind you can’t replicate with storebought–within the realm of the 10-minute meal. Plus, keeping the olive oil out of the processor entirely means that it won’t turn bitter from contact with the metal blades (which the extra virgin stuff tends to do). So not only is this a fancier pesto, it’s a better-tasting one too. Not bad for a cheater trick.
Spinach Scallion Pesto (makes about 1 1/2 cups)
About 1/3 cup blanched slivered almonds (a large handful)
1/4 lb (4 oz) fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
2-3 scallions, roughly chopped OR 4-6 scallion tops
About 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (a couple large handfuls)
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, or enough to moisten and bind the pesto
Heat a small skillet or frying pan (not nonstick) over medium heat. Add almonds and toast, stirring frequently, until fragrant and golden. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.
In a food processor, combine almonds, spinach, scallions, Parmesan, garlic, salt, and pepper. Pulse until the mixture is finely chopped and holds together when pressed. (If you have a small processor, doing this in batches is fine.) Transfer to a medium mixing bowl and press into a large mound. Pour olive oil over the pesto. If not using immediately, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 days. You can also transfer the pesto solids to an airtight container, add enough olive oil to cover, and freeze for up to 2 months, then thaw in the refrigerator overnight before use.
Just before serving, stir to combine the pesto solids and oil.