04 July 2014

Hazelnut and Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

Here's an easy condiment that you can whip up in minutes when you have all of the ingredients on hand and will be such a welcome addition or finishing touch to so many dishes, you might just want to have a jar of it in the refrigerator at all times for adding that little pizzazz that lifts your dish from ordinary to extraordinary. Really!
Red, White and Blue Crostini
I came across the recipe as an addition to a grilled cheese over at "Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet" blog  and it was love at first bite. Since I live in the land of hazelnuts here Piemonte, and they just happen to be my all time favorite nut, it didn't take me long to whip this pesto up.  I am able to get soft and salty sun dried tomatoes at our Pinerolo market, straight from the producers in southern Italy. They are a delightful treat that I find more versatile than the ones in the oil. Naturally if you don't have access to hazelnuts almonds or walnuts can step in with a different twist but tasty no less. If using the tomatoes in the oil, I would drain the oil and measure it for the oil that you would be using in the recipe and maybe use a bit less. 
Chunky version hazelnut tomato pesto
The first time I made this I blended the tomatoes with the oil and everything else but the nuts first to a rough stage before adding the hazelnuts so that I had larger pieces of nuts, which I found to be an unexpected crunch that I really appreciated. This last time  when I made it I chucked everything into the small hand blender's food processor attachment and blended it all up making a very smooth paste. Not sure which I prefer. It's a bit like smooth or crunchy peanut butter. Sometimes one is preferable and other times you just want the other. 
Ricotta and Hazelnut Tomato Pesto Farinata 
I have used it on top of a celery stick filled with a bit of mascarpone cheese, farinata (which is a chickpea pancake Ligurian specialty) that has had ricotta smeared on top and the pesto on top of that, crostini, with ricotta or other soft spreadable cheeses and as a great substitute n your favorite burger, meat or veggie. The list is endless. I have yet use it on pasta cause I am usually too busy dunking my grissini in it. It is a perfect picnic addition as we found out one afternoon.
Picinic fare
When the weather isn't cooperating, all you need is to make a batch of this pesto and it'll feel like the sun is shining on your palate and what could be better than that?
The smooth pesto version 
I've slightly adapted the recipe and you should too to what ever you have on hand, but if you can find hazelnuts, or filberts, the domesticated American variety of hazelnuts, you will find them worth seeking out. Now get in the kitchen and mix up a batch!

Hazelnut and Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

Ingredients:
3/4 cup raw, whole hazelnuts, shelled
3 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, cut up
1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons light brown sugar
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Optional: a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to brighten the flavors slightly, being carrel not to add too much so that it covers the subtle hazelnut flavor


Instructions:
Preheat a small skillet over medium-high heat. 
Add the hazelnuts.
Toast the nuts in the dry heavy skillet, tossing occasionally, until they start to pick up color and are fragrant, approximately 7 minutes. 
Remove from heat, allow to cool without picking up too much color and set aside.
Combine all the other ingredients in a food processor and process until relatively smooth. Add the reserved hazelnuts and process further until the hazelnuts are chopped, but the "pesto" maintains a chunky texture.
Cover and refrigerate for a few hours before use to give the oil time to rehydrate the tomatoes. 
Stir before use. 
Will keep, refrigerated, for well more than a week. 
Chunky style

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