Monday, November 2, 2009

Nasturtium Pesto

Most of the flowers in the yard have pretty much gone by.  We're enjoying the last few spikes of white and magenta snap dragons still making a valiant effort and the tree hydrangeas which have turned an appropriately seasonal dusty pink.  There's still one noteable holdout, a bushy cluster of nasturtiums that is still going strong -- it must not have gotten the memo that November is here.

We always include nasturtiums when we plant herbs each spring.  The vivid yellow and orange blossoms and the peppery leaves are ready razzle-dazzle additions to summer salads.

So anyway, Steve takes the hounds to the beach in the morning and meets up with his regular crew. Chatting about various vegetables one day, our friend Patricia mentioned nasturtium leaves make a great pesto.  I've had wonderul results with other pesto varations -- basil and mint work very well together, and for an Asian flair try mixing basil, mint, cilantro and orange zest (skip the cheese for this one). But a pesto of nasturtium leaves was intriguing, and Lord knows, we still have plenty of them.

This weekend, taking stock of that robust stand of lily-pad shaped leaves I thought "How hard can it be?"  Turns out not hard at all, and it resulted in a very welcome one-last-taste-of-summer lunch, savored especially knowing that fall's first frost is not too far off. 

Linguini with Nasturtium Pesto and Nasturtium Flowers

4 c. packed nasturtium leaves
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 c. walnuts, toasted
2 oz. best parmesan cheese
1 t. salt
1 t. cracked pepper
1/4 c. best olive oil
1/2 c. roasted red peppers, diced
1 lb. linguini
Nasturtium flowers and extra grated cheese for serving

In a food processor pulse the chopping blade to hash up the leaves, garlic, toasted nuts, parmesan, salt and pepper and the olive oil, as you would your standard pesto recipe.  Stop short of making a puree, it's nicer as a chunky paste with pale flecks of cheese and nuts contrasting against the vivid green bits of leaf. 
Prepare the linguini.  When it's almost done, take 1/2 cup of the boiling pasta water and whisk it into the pesto, emulsifying it to a thick and creamy sauce.  Drain the pasta, toss with the pesto and the chopped roasted red peppers. Garnish liberally with nasturtium flowers and pass grated cheese when you serve. 
It doesn't get prettier and tastier than this.  The pasta's bright green color is studded with bits of soft and juicy red pepper; the bite of the nasturtium leaves is tempered by the parmesan and walnuts. Plus the fun kick of color from those lovely blossoms.

If you didn't plant nasturtiums last year, put them on your list for next spring.  And guess what -- deer don't eat them!

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