Monday, February 20, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut "Pesto" {the Food Matters project}

We're into week number three of The Food Matters Project now...and it's my turn to host (and pick the featured recipe). Yay!  Can I just say that this was no easy feat?  I have a ridiculous number of pages bookmarked in The Food Matters Cookbook.  Reeeeeediculous.  So really, it was a matter of choosing a few ingredients that I was in the mood for and searching.  A little more involved than closing my eyes, flipping the pages, and stopping on one.  Which I almost did.

So.  Considering my current torrid affair with goat cheese, you can bet that it influenced my decision to make this dish.  It's called a "pesto".  Yup, quotations and all (which I imagine are in place since it's not a traditional, leafy green herb-packed pesto).  But that said, I've adored pretty much any variety of "pesto" I've tried.  A favorite of mine is actually another red version that uses sundried tomatoes.  So.  Red pesto.  Involving goat cheese (if you choose...it's actually a variation).  Also involving earthy, beautifully roasted and charred red peppers and fat, oily walnuts.  But no worries...you can still find a bit of green in here with the bright, summery addition of basil.  It is optional, because afterall...it's not summer everywhere and not everybody has access to greenhouse-grown herbs.  But if you can find it, try it- it adds another great dimension to the layers of flavor.
As predicted, I was hooked.  Initially I tossed it with some whole wheat spaghetti topped with a few crushed red chile flakes and a good grating of Parm for a lunch that induced unsolicited oooh's and aaah's the entire way through.  The creaminess lent by the addition of that goat cheese perfectly accented the hot bites of garlic and nutty, oiliness of the walnuts while tempering the rich sweetness of the roasted red peppers.  Happy belly and gloriously stinky garlic breath.  That's what I call satisfaction.

 I wound up using the extra as a dipping sauce for crudites the following day...and slathered it in the center of an omelet the next.
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Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut "Pesto"

by Heather Schmitt-González (slightly adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman)
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes (if roasting your peppers at home)
Keywords: roast condiment entree sauce vegetarian nuts herbs vegetables cheese
Ingredients (serves 4-8)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 c. walnuts
  • 8 roasted red bell peppers
  • 1 c. fresh basil, optional
  • ½ c. olive oil
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
Pulse the garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the walnuts and pulse a few more times to break up any large pieces.

Add the roasted red peppers and basil and process, streaming in the oil as you go, until all the ingredients are well combined and as coarse or as smooth as you want them. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve immediately with crudités, crostini, or vegetable chips, or spread on sandwiches or toss with pasta.

Store in a covered airtight container in the fridge for a day or so, or freeze.
Cheesy Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut "Pesto":
Add ½ c. crumbled goat cheese or feta or grated Parmesan when you add the the roasted red peppers.

Roasted Red Pepper and White Bean Dip:
Substitute 2 c. cooked (or canned) and drained cannellini beans for half the roasted red peppers and proceed with the recipe.
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The Food Matters Project is hosted right here at girlichef this week, but be sure to head over and check out all of the other participants variations this week by checking out the comments on this post!  And be sure to check out the schedule to find out (and join in!) what's cooking in the weeks to come.
food matters project

I am also sharing this post with:
Presto Pasta Nights hosted at The Life & Love's of Grumpy's Honeybunch this week.
Bookmarked Recipes at Tinned Tomatoes (founded by Ruth's Kitchen Experiments)
bookmarked recipes new logo prestopastanights