Tag Archives: Pesto

Christmas in September.

No, I’m not talking about the holiday itself. I’m talking about the reference to red and green chiles in New Mexican cuisine.

When dining in New Mexico, one can order a number of dishes prepared with red or green chile sauce, such as enchiladas, stuffed sopapillas, burritos, etc. If you wish to get both green and red chile sauce, you simply order ‘Christmas’. And since I’m still undecided which chile I prefer, I usually order my dishes this way. I get the best of both worlds.

New Mexico Red Chile

This is where the love starts.
Just don't breathe in too deeply.

I was lucky to make a quick visit to Santa Fe a couple of weeks ago, just in time for Hatch green chile season which I blogged about here. But red chile gets its due now.

When I first moved to Santa Fe over 20 years ago, I got a job working the ‘front of the house’ at the Ore House on the Plaza. This is where I met my husband. He was the cute bartender I gazed upon as I came into the bar seeking employment. I told my friend Maggie right then and there, “I’m going to marry him.”

And I did.

key ingredients for perfect pesto

KISS - Keep it simple, stupid. Stupid is me, not you.
Just so we're clear. Duh.

I also met some of the best people around. Many are still dear close friends, even though some of us have moved around, moved back, moved to other countries. We still have solid ties and relationships that allow us all to hook up. Once we get together, it’s like no time has passed. We pick up where we left off. There are never odd moments of uncertainty. There is trust. Love. Respect.

The Ore House will always hold a special place in my heart. Even the friends who have come and gone from our lives are revered and remembered.

ready to blend

Have I mentioned how much I love K&K for the Cuisinart? Again...gracias.

As is the Ore House’s Red Chile Piñon Pesto. This signature recipe was developed by the original chef of the Ore House, and despite my insider contacts, no one has the recipe. For years, this was not an issue, as anyone could wander on up the white staircase to the second floor of the restaurant and simply purchase large mason jars of the adored pesto to take home and enjoy for many, many meals.

But alas, some good things come to an end. After over two decades of success, the Ore House on the Plaza will close its doors. In an attempt to gain a surplus of pesto bliss, my amigo Cristòbal made a run out to the restaurant recently and discovered that our beloved pesto is no longer available. Not on the menu, not in jars.

¡Que lastima! When Chris broke the news to me, I nearly wept. Honestly. People who are ‘in the know’ about this pesto will verify its magic. There is something medicinal about it. You eat it, you sweat. Your tongue begs you to stop, begs you for more. Slather it on a burger, and I swear you’ll never eat a burger any other way (unless it’s already covered in green chile. Then you are forgiven). Combine it with butter and add to seared shrimp or scallops? Died and gone to chile heaven, my friends. You’re just a better person after eating it.

Jar O Love

If you're lucky, you have one (or two) of these in your fridge.

Just knowing I have a jar or two in my fridge just makes me sleep better at night. I know, it’s really absurd, but there you have it. So I knew I had to find a way to keep me and my familia in the red, with the red. I’ve been playing around with the ingredients – chile, cheeses, oil, and nuts for a while now.

And I think I’ve got it.

Now, I am not going to be as selfish and elusive as the original masters. Oh no. I think great food should be enjoyed, not hoarded. I gladly share my recipe with all of you, and encourage the Red Chile Piñon Pesto diehards to give it a try. All of the ingredients can be found easily in your own home towns and cities. Except perhaps, for the red chile pods. But that’s okay, because I can hook you up, my compadres. Just email me and I will be happy to send you some of the good stuff. Soon, you too can be putting up jars of ‘liquid gold’.

And, if for any reason you just don’t have it in you to whip up a batch, you can always wait until Christmas. The actual holiday this time. I think I may be making up a shwack for gifts. Just stay on my good side, and all good tidings will come.

Red Chile Piñon Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound dried New Mexican red chile pods
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 cups grated parmesan and romano cheeses (about 6 ounces)
  • 2 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or 1/2 teaspoon regular salt
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Directions:

  • Spread dried chile pods on a large baking sheet and heat in a 300 degree oven for 3 minutes. Remove stems, but do not seed.
  • Combine all ingredients in food processor, except for oil and salt. Add 1 cup of the oil, and then pulse to combine. Slow stream the additional oil as needed to form a chunky ‘pesto-like’ mixture. Taste for seasoning, and add up to 1 teaspoon of salt as needed. The cheeses are naturally salty, so you want to be careful with this. I did find that despite the cheese, a teaspoon of kosher salt was helpful. Be careful if you are using regular table salt. If you are, perhaps half is fine.
  • Store pesto in a mason jar (preferred), or covered container and refrigerate. Mixture will keep for several months. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.
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Presto, Pesto!

The days of summer are winding down and it makes me a little sad. The glorious produce we enjoy locally alone makes it one of my favorite seasons. Now that we are into the second week of September (when did that happen?) I know it’s only a matter of time before summer is a fond memory.

Minimum ingredients, maximum flavor!

Minimum ingredients, maximum flavor!

I live on the Central Coast of California and while it’s still plenty warm here, there are subtle changes and hints of things to come. The light is becoming more intense in the sky and earth, the summer haze cleared by the fall breezes. Summer berries are not as sweet, on their way out until next June. Soon they will be replaced by apples and fall pears, perfect for a cinnamon crumble or crisp.

Even my humble garden is ready for a rest. A few tomatoes remain on their withered vines; some basil, thyme and rosemary have stuck around to keep them company. Tomorrow my tomatoes and basil will leave their soil beds and be enjoyed over the next few days.

My basil, one last triumphal bunch, will make a perfect batch of pesto. Pesto is not an epiphany in the culinary world, I know this. But its vibrant flavor and versatile ways make me a big fan.

Pulsing Pesto

Pulsing Pesto

I don’t recommend buying ready made pesto in stores. I find their ratio of oil and cheese overbearing, they are usually heavy handed with the garlic too, and the basil is almost an after thought. And honestly? I’m not a huge fan of pine nuts, the traditional nut used in ready made pestos.

I prefer walnuts but you could use pecans, almonds or even macadamia nuts. Olive oil is fine, walnut oil is lovely too. Even the basil itself can be replaced with a different herb, cilantro or parsley for example. A food processor will make quick time of the following recipe and will make enough for several meals.

The last batch of pesto I made was enjoyed in a ‘farewell to summer’ salad; a few splashes of balsamic and the pesto gave tremendous body and flavor to last of the summer tomatoes. I stirred a couple of tablespoons into some ready made mayonnaise and had first rate turkey pesto sandwiches for lunch. And a box of store bought cheese ravioli was a quick and delightful supper when I tossed them together with the last of the pesto, 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water and some grated parmesan cheese.

I’m already thinking about the next batch of pesto I will make and the dishes I can create with them.

Whatever I come up with, I know it will allow me less time in the kitchen and more time to enjoy the last few days of summer. Perhaps with a glass of wine, I will watch the sky soften, a gentle autumn hue on the horizon.

Basil Walnut Pesto

The Finished Product

The Finished Product

Makes 1/2 cup – This recipe can be doubled if desired.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of basil leaves, about 3 cups
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted and cooled
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, about 1 ounce
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Combine basil, walnuts, lemon zest, salt and pepper in food processor and process to a coarse mixture. Add olive oil and cheese. Pulse to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Transfer mixture to a ramekin or bowl. To store, top with olive oil to cover (this will prevent the pesto from blackening). Store wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator, up to 1 week.