Thursday, August 18, 2005

Pistou a l'Anchois

Here's something to do with all that basil growing in the back yard. This is a Proven├žal take on pesto, in case you're tired of the Genovese kind with pine nuts. The recipe is from Lulu's Proven├žal Table.
Take 3 garlic cloves, about 12 anchovy filets (salt-cured are best, but have to be cleaned), and a pinch of salt, and pound them in a large mortar with a wooden pestle until you have a paste. Take a couple of generous handfuls of fresh basil (including flowers) and pound it with the anchovy-garlic paste. You have to keep adding basil and pounding it down until you eventually get a rough puree. It does take a while. There is no substitute for pounding it with a pestle--pureeing it with a machine just doesn't yield the same intense, sharp flavor. I run out of patience before the basil turns completely smooth, but I like it a little rustic. Here's what it looks like after you add some leaves:
Then drizzle in some olive oil (2/3c) while stirring with the pestle, until you've got a good slurry of pistou-y goodness.
Toss with some pasta and serve with grated parmesan cheese on the side.
P.S. If you're one of those people who "doesn't like anchovies" please keep in mind that good anchovies (oil-packed in a jar or salt-packed in a can) are wonderful sources of flavor. A good amount of mediterranean food uses anchovies as a basic flavoring ingredient. Don't judge anchovies based on those nasty things that come out of the $1.59 oil-pack can at the supermarket, the kind that cheap pizzerias use.