Chris HowardComment

Almond Pesto

Chris HowardComment
Almond Pesto

Almond Pesto

Prep time: 10 minutes (includes roasting the garlic)

"Cook" time: 5 minutes

So it's November of last year and I'm having dinner with friends at this little pasta joint in my neighborhood called Felix.  One of my friends decides to order a pasta with pesto. Sure, pesto is fine. This pesto blew me away, so I had to ask about it. They make it with almonds and capers and I made sure to file that way. Felix just happens to be a James Beard award finalist for Best New Restaurant in 2018 that I can walk to.

Later that month I volunteered to make something for a friend to bring to her work's Thanksgiving potluck. The constraint was it had to be vegan. I could have made a hummus but I chose to experiment. I decided to make an almond pesto with capers and to omit the cheese. 

Almonds + Capers - Cheese = Pesto

The above is a simplified equation. Full solution below. 

For this recipe you will need a food processor. Initially, my intention was to have this recipe be for a big batch of pesto – enough to have at a super bowl party with pita chips. Then I decided that having a six or eight cup food processor didn't need to be a prerequisite. You can make this in any small food processor. 

When roasting the garlic, go ahead and roast some additional cloves and save them for future use. I went ahead and roasted five cloves of garlic and used the other three in the fried rice I made for dinner. 

This stuff is great on crackers (see photo above). Obviously, a pasta dish is something you could do. Last night I sautéed some zucchini and carrots and then tossed them in a big spoonful of this stuff. I may do the same thing again tonight. 

Servings/Suggestions

  • If you want to amp up the basil, just double the amount of basil. If you do this, it is up to you if you want to include the parsley. 
  • Good on pasta (recipe to come)
  • Good on crackers
  • Tossed with sautéed vegetables

Ingredients

  • 2 garlic cloves, skin on
  • 1/2 cup almonds, raw & unsalted
  • fresh basil leaves (3/4 oz package)
  • fresh parsley (equal amount as the basil, tear off the top so that you mostly have leaves)
  • 1 tablespoon capers & 1 teaspoon of the brine they are packed in
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of kosher salt

Mise en place

(Set yourself up for success before cooking)

  • Rise and dry the basil
  • Rinse and dry the parsley
  • You can roast the garlic in advance if you so choose

Directions

Step 1

Time to roast the garlic. Put heat a sauté pan over medium high heat. When hot, add the garlic. After 5 minutes, flip the cloves and cook for another 5 minutes. The cloves should be soft and there should be some blackened spots on the skin. 

Step 2

Time to start chopping. Add the almonds to your food processor. Pulse until there are no large pieces of almond. When you think you are there, give everything a stir to make sure no large pieces are hiding under the blades. If you find some large pieces, pulse for a few more seconds. 

Step 3

Add the basil, parsley, roasted garlic, a few grinds of black pepper, the capers and their brine. Continue chopping. You will need to stop every few seconds to push down the herbs. Do whatever works to get everything blended together. Tapping your grind/chop/pulse button is a good strategy. 

Step 4

Add half of the olive oil. As you blend it will start to become a pesto paste. Get it blended well, add a pinch of salt, a few more grinds of black pepper and the rest of the olive oil. 

Step 5

Time to pulse it all again. Scrape down the sides to make sure everything gets incorporated. Once it looks like pesto you should be good to go.