Pistou, not pesto.

Whenever I have fresh, leafy herbs left in the kitchen that are about to go bad, I like to make pesto or pistou. Now, what is the difference between these two? One of them you are sure to be familiar with — fresh basil, parmesan cheese, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic. Pesto. But pistou? What the hell is that?

Well the basic definition of pistou is that it is like a pesto but minus the cheese and pine nuts. It is essentially an herb sauce. It was traditionally made with basil and crushed and made into a paste in a mortar and pestle (hence the name pistou). Basil. The beloved ingredient for herb-type sauces. Nah, forget that. Basil is expensive (unless you’ve discovered the box of “$3.00 – your hand” basil from the best farmer at the Oak St Farmer’s Market — my best not-so-kept secret of the summer). What about other herbs? Yes, my friends. You can make a pistou with other herbs besides basil. (!!!)

Although summer is long gone, cilantro is one of the most commonly used herbs in my kitchen. It is cheap, delicious, nutritious, and adds a whole dimension of flavour to any type of cooking, salad, or baked good (hellooooo savoury corn muffins). Seriously. It’s my all-time favourite. And cilantro pistou tossed with soba noodles is probably one of the quickest and cheapest side dishes/quick meals you can make out there (cilantro = $0.79, 1 pkg soba noodles = $1.00, garlic, olive oil and salt you will most likely have in your kitchen…or there is something wrong with you).

And since I really despise wasting any form of produce, this pistou is made mainly out of the stems of the cilantro. Believe it or not, but most of the flavour is contained in the stems of cilantro, not just the leaves. So before you go chucking your wasted stems (broccoli, I’m looking at you), try blending it up into a pistou. You’ll be surprised.

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Buckwheat soba noodles tossed with cilantro pistou
What you’ll need:
– 1 pkg buckwheat soba noodles
– 1 bunch fresh cilantro, washed, very bottom of the stems removed
– 3 cloves garlic
– 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
– 1/2 tsp salt

What you’ll need to do:
1. Boil a pot of water, add a sprinkling of salt, and cook soba according to package. Drain, rinse through cold water, and set aside.
2. Throw remaining ingredients into a blender. Blend until well emulsified. Feel free to add more oil and salt to taste.
3. Toss with noodles (I only used half of the recipe; pour any extra sauce into ice cubes and freeze for future use). Great with a fried egg on top or tossed with steamed broccoli. Serves 6.

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3 thoughts on “Pistou, not pesto.

  1. Pingback: An unlikely combination. | Umami & Me

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