Saturday, March 23, 2013

"Chopped!": Anchovy Parsley Pesto

My husband sometimes accuses me of watching too much Food Network, and it's true that since I became a devotee of "Chopped" and other shows where competitors have to cook something from a crazy assortment of ingredients, I've become much freer in the kitchen.  Rather than always following recipes, I'm now more likely to try and empty the fridge with whatever I can cobble together.  The results are not always impressive: poached egg on top of rice with Thai yellow curry sauce and tomato slices wasn't exactly a work of culinary genius, although it did get rid of the leftover rice and curry sauce.

Tonight, however, I managed something that I'm proud of.  A few days ago, I bought some anchovies at my local Italian deli:

I was hoping they would be like the lightly brined anchovies that I usually buy but couldn't find that day--those have a sweet saltiness that makes them tasty all on their own.  Instead, these anchovies were incredibly salty and impossible to eat.  What in the world was I going to do with them?

I'd never cooked with anchovies in my life, but I'd recently been making pasta tossed with a little rendered and crisped salt pork, along with olive oil and parmesan, and it occurred to me that the anchovies would do just as well as a source of saltiness.  Then I thought the slight bitterness of parsley would go well with the salty anchovies, and before I knew it, I came up with a plan for a pesto:

I didn't measure carefully, but I used about a cup of parsley, five or six anchovies,** maybe a 3" x 2" x 1" wedge of parmesan, about a quarter cup of pecans, one clove of garlic, and perhaps a third to a half cup of good olive oil.  Then I combined everything in the food processor:

The result was delicious!  I served it with bowtie pasta and sauteed asparagus, topped with a little lemon juice and some more grated parmesan:

The pesto also tasted great just spread on a piece of fresh bread.  I've since discovered that I'm not the first person to make pesto with anchovies (just google "anchovy pesto," and you'll see what I mean), but I still feel pretty good about my creation.

Bon appetit!

**Note on 3/24: If you try making this pesto yourself, you might want to cut back on the anchovies.  Although the pasta tasted great at the time, the salt pretty much blew out my tastebuds for the rest of the evening.  Admittedly, I kept trying small samples of the pesto without anything to buffer it, so maybe that's when I overdid it, but just keep your tolerance for salt in mind.

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