Thursday, July 23, 2009

Georgia Terroir

I've been looking for a good (mostly) local alternative to traditional pesto. Inspiration came from the Moosewood Lowfat Cookbook which recommends using tomatoes as a substitute for Parmesan cheese and olive oil. The flavors of basil and tomato are naturally complementary and are naturally growing together right out there in my garden. I added pecans because they are so ubiquitous here in Georgia it's a bit ridiculous. The only time I ever saw a pecan in Minnesota was in the pie at Thanksgiving if we were lucky and went to the neighbors who had more decadant tastes. At the barn where George (the horse) lives, there is a large pecan orchard with trees yielding nuts the size of limes, and the odd twenty or so pecan trees just growing around the place. Pecans litter the ground in the fall. I'm thinking I might go into the business of pecan pressing and start a little cottage industry around pecan oil, which could also replace the olive oil in this recipe--the only thing that isn't local. If you really want to go completely local you could skip the oil. It isn't really necessary, but gives the pesto a luscious mouthfeel. I love the taste of Sun Gold tomatoes (who doesn't?) and think they have the best complementary taste to the peppery bittery bite of basil. Pecans are also sweet and have a delicious caramelized taste and fragrance when lightly toasted. So, this pesto is a bit non-traditional in taste, but heck, we aren't living in Italy. We're living in Georgia, so who cares if it tastes a little bit more like Georgia than Italy?

Sun Gold Pecan Pesto

Yields about 2 1/2 cups of pesto

3 cups packed basil leaves
1 cup Sun Gold tomatoes
3/4 cup pecan halves, lightly toasted
4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1 T olive oil (optional)

In a food processor, combine basil, tomatoes, garlic, pecans and salt and puree until smooth.

I regularly have this with sliced Cherokee Purple tomatoes and goat feta with some salad greens. It doesn't need much more than a grind of black pepper and some salt

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