It may not be as green as real pesto – the kind made with basil and pine nuts and so forth – but it is awfully green, all the same. Toss it with hot pasta, as is the way with pesto, or use as a sauce on grilled chicken or fish (it is completely and utterly yummers on grilled salmon), or use as a dressing on a pasta salad. I have done all of these to great satisfaction.
In the interest of full disclosure, I got the idea for this “pesto” at an event hosted by the Walnut Board. Yes, things like that go down.* The walnut people’s people’s assistants invite people like little old me to come up to Napa and eat walnut-laden foods and listen to all-walnut talks and be generally wined and dined and walnuted and put up in places that iron the sheets, all in the fervent hope that we will write something about walnuts. Funny thing is, I like walnuts a lot and am fully aware of how chock-full of omega-3s they are. The other funny thing is that the best recipe I took away from the whole thing was “zucchini mint pesto” but made with way less mint than used here and, obviously, with walnuts. As I was eating it I thought the heretical thought, “this is good, but it would be way better with pistachios.”
And so it is.
Zucchini mint pesto
By the way, this pesto oxidizes (turns brown) just like the real thing, so cover it with olive oil or cover with plastic wrap by pressing the wrap directly onto the surface of the sauce.
2 medium zucchini
10 – 12 sprigs of mint
1 small clove garlic
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup shelled pistachios
1/3 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino
Chop zucchini and put in a blender or food processor. Pick leaves off the sprigs of mint and add them to the zucchini, tearing any larger leaves into smaller pieces if you’re so inclined.
Chop the garlic and throw it in along with the oil and salt. Whirl until a more or less smooth paste forms – this will take a minute or two of running the blender, so be a bit patient.
Add the pistachios and cheese and whirl until smooth again, another minute or two. Taste and add more salt to taste, if you like. Use fairly quickly or cover (plastic wrap or waxed paper or parchment paper pressed to the surface). You can keep it at room temperature for a bit while you prepare the rest of the food or chill up to two days.