As someone who owns a disturbingly high number of cookbooks, subscribes to several cooking magazines, and downloads cookbooks on her iPad on a regular basis, I am aware that those should be my main source of inspiration for dinners. Surprisingly, one more time I will blog on something seen on FoodTV. Go figure. Rachael Ray enticed me with this pesto, especially through her description of how floral and complex-tasting Fresno peppers can be. I had most ingredients around, all I needed to grab at the grocery store was the bright red Fresno pepper. Quick to put together, this turned out as a very delicious pesto. Not sure about the floral, though. Read on… 😉
THAI-STYLE PESTO WITH BROWN RICE PASTA
(adapted from Rachael Ray)
1 pound brown rice spaghetti
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1 cup fresh baby arugula leaves
5 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
2 tablespoons tamari
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced
1 Fresno chile, seeded
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water, add the pasta, and cook until al dente.Place the basil and arugula leaves, 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, tamari, garlic, lime juice, and chile into a food processor. Pulse into a paste. Drizzle in the extra-virgin olive oil. Pour the pesto into a large bowl and reserve. If the pesto seems too thick, reserve a little bit of the pasta cooking water, and use it to thin the pesto right before incorporating into the cooked spaghetti.
Drain the pasta, add to the pesto, and toss to combine. Garnish with the remaining 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds.
Comments: Rachael Ray’s title for this show was “Thai Tonight”, and she served the pasta with a stir-fry of chiles and chicken over shredded iceberg lettuce. I had some iceberg lettuce in the fridge, but went with grilled flank steak. I simply seasoned the lettuce with lime juice and a tiny bit of grapeseed oil, added some Campari tomatoes that were feeling ignored and risking the cruel fate of a compost pile. The grilled steak rested on the bed of this improvised salad. A simple main dish to allow the pasta to shine.
I did not have a lot of basil available, so I used baby arugula to compensate, I like its sharper nature. Now, let’s address the floral component of a Fresno chile. When I plated the dish, I told Phil that next time I would use two peppers to make it more colorful, because “Fresno is all about flavor, not real heat.” After the second forkful of pasta, lips burning, taste buds fried, we were both grateful that I used only one! ;-) Either Rachael’s tolerance for heat is a lot higher than mine, or I managed to pick a mutant pepper with unusually high levels of capsaicin at the grocery store. But, the interesting thing is that after a while we more or less got used to the heat and the sweat dripping from our foreheads, and thought the level of spice was just right. So I say be brave, grab a Fresno (make sure you seed it) and go for it!
Rachael used brown rice pasta as the starch component. Traditionally, one would choose the regular, white rice noodles associated with Thai cooking, and of course they work great for this type of dish. But I loved the slightly firmer texture of the brown rice spaghetti. Nowadays I use whole wheat pasta almost exclusively, but both brown rice and quinoa pasta have their spot in the Bewitching pantry.
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