One’s mind doesn’t quickly wander to Asian cuisine when thinking of olive oil, but I decided to break a few moulds here and be adventurous. The results were better than I could have hoped for! Pesto is a staple in the Mediterranean kitchen, but there are many sauces and emulsions in Asia that rely on similar principles, so it seemed like a good place to start.
One of my favorite combinations of flavors is coconut milk, lime, and Thai herbs, so I made this the basis of my pesto. Instead of pinenuts (which don’t exist in Asia, and are outrageously expensive to boot) I used toasted cashews. They lend a similar richness and flavor without breaking the bank. For this recipe I chose Olearia San Giorgio L’aspromontano olive oil for it’s light qualities and slight bitter notes, which seemed to blend perfectly with the ginger, garlic and cilantro.
Note: these are just the vegetables that looked good at the farmer’s market, and could be substituted by a multitude of others.
For the Pesto:
- 1 C Thai basil (can be found in your local asian grocer)
- 1 C cilantro
- 1/4 C mint
- 1/4 C Italian basil
- 1/2 C roasted cashews
- 1 T chopped ginger
- 1 T chopped garlic
- 1/2 C olive oil (Try L’aspromontano)
- 1 T fish sauce (or soy for vegetarians)
- 2 T coconut milk
- Juice of 1 lime
For the Pesto:
- Bring a pot of water to the boil and prepare an ice bath.
- Toast cashews in a dry, hot pan until browned.
- Quickly blanch all the herbs for 30 seconds remove to the ice bath to set color, and squeeze firmly to dry.
- Add herbs, ginger, garlic and nuts to a food processor or blender with a few T of olive oil
pulse to break down.
- Slowly incorporate the liquid ingredients while blending at a high setting
reserve in fridge.
For the “Pasta”:
- Remove inedible bottoms of asparagus, and cut off tops, reserve them.
- Using a vegetable peeler, peel the carrot, zucchini, and asparagus stalks lengthwise to create ribbons, this will be the “pasta”.
- Slice radishes thinly slice white part of leek into 1 inch cylinders.
- When oil is smoking add the leeks and saute about 2 minutes per side until dark brown, reserve.
- Bring a large saucepan to medium heat and add olive oil, ginger, and garlic. Allow to infuse for 2-3 minutes. add your vegetable ribbons and saute lightly until just softened, reserve
- Pour juice of 1 lemon over pasta. Check for seasoning, add salt and pepper as needed.
- Slice pears very thinly and lay flat on a plate spoon a layer of pesto onto the pears.
- Arrange the cooked and raw vegetables on top of the pesto sprinkle with lime juice, salt and fresh herbs.