Friday, August 12, 2016

The Farm Market Experience Continues with a New Twist On Pesto

During my trip to Hawaii this past winter I discovered shiso.  It is a large-leafed, herb that has minty and citrus flavors.   It complements tomatoes well.  I couldn't wait for summer when I could get my hands on some at home.  I was pretty sure Lani's Farm would be selling it at both of the farmers' markets I attend (Larchmont and Dag Hammarskjold plaza).   There doesn't seem to be an exotic green they don't carry.

When I had it in Hawaii, I ate it whole as part of a salad.  I felt the unique minty flavor would be perfect in a pesto sauce.  Would my pesto have cheese?  Would the traditional parmesan go well with the shiso?  Maybe pecorino would work well (pecorino and mint make a delicious pesto when mixed with pistachios).  I knew I was in short supply of those cheeses at home and that would mean a trip to the supermarket for cheese.  Were there any cheeses I could buy at the farmers' market that would be suitable?

The salad I ate in Hawaii contained goat cheese.  Coach Farm just happens to have a booth at the market.  Why not try mixing goat cheese into the sauce?  I went to the booth and inquired about their firmest cheeses.  The vendor suggested a well-aged, raw milk cheese.  I took a taste and was surprised it didn't have any of the funky flavors raw milk cheeses tend to have. I thought the shiso, the goat cheese, some shallots (I had onion mignonette in the salad in Hawaii), basil from my garden (to make sure there was some expected flavor in the sauce), and  toasted pine nuts would be perfect over gnocchi for dinner.  I also included some roasted, heirloom cherry tomatoes.

I would love to have served this to someone without saying what the ingredients were and then watching that person taste it. I was kind to Kevin and gave him a warning.

Gnocchi with Shiso-Goat Cheese Pesto and Roasted Tomatoes

  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 2 Tbl rice wine vinegar
  • 20 heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 +1 Tbl olive oil
  • Salt
  • 1 bunch shiso (about two cups of leaves)
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves
  • 2 Tbl toasted pine nuts
  • 4 oz. firm, aged goat cheese
  • 1 package of your favorite gnocchi
Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Place the shallots and vinegar in a small bowl and allow to sit while you prepare the rest of the sauce.

Toss tomatoes with 1 Tbl of olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Roast for about 10 minutes.  You want them soft, but try to avoid having them burst.

Combine basil, shiso, remaining olive oil, pine nuts, shallots, and vinegar in a food processor.  Process until fairly smooth.  Add the cheese and pulse until combined.

Cook gnocchi in salted boiling water until they float to the top of the pot.  Combine with the pesto and top with the tomatoes.


Sue said...

I think if I had first had shiso leaves in Hawaii, I would have liked them a lot better. I have to give shiso another try. And that's so interesting to put it in pesto. That would probably tame the taste that I think I don't like. And vinegar in pesto? Another exciting touch!

Rosemary Wolbert said...

Wow! Shiso is totally new to me. Guess Im overdue for a trip to Hawaii! This sounds marvelous. Pesto can be made from so many things, can't it? I snuck in a kale pesto -- no forewarning -- and no one said anything but, "Good!"

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Sue - Funny enough the shiso I had back home was stronger than the one I had in Hawaii. Don't know if it was different varieties or if the flavor changes at different times of the year (like the arugula you get at the supermarket is mild but the stuff you buy at the farmers market is inedible to me). I used the vinegar to cut back the bite of the shallots. I didn't really taste it.

Rosemary - I have done spinach in pesto, but never kale. Wonder if I would dare. My husband likes it, but I'm not fond of it. Still, basil hides a lot of sins. Definitely try shiso if you get a chance, but like I said to Sue, I'm not sure it tastes the same everywhere you eat it (I liked in better in Hawaii, so you should try it there).