Hello, spring. I’m quite disappointed in you. The second day, and we have snow in Boston again? You know how you can make it up to me? Give me some sun and warm weather :). Thanks!
If you’ve been to Boston before, then you may know about the South End. Sowa Sunday farmer’s market + food truck + vintage mart + arts/crafts fair? I could go on and on about this neighborhood. It’s filled with wonderful restaurants, dog parks, art galleries, and serious gems of boutiques. You could forgo Newbury st and just stroll along Washington St, Harrison Ave, and Tremont St. You can find superb coffee, light and fluffy doughnuts, delightful pastries, clothes, furniture, pet food, groceries – ah! the list goes on. I take my dog Annie to the dog park there almost every day. You know what’s even better? Many of the stores and restaurants allow dogs. There are outdoor patios, and this makes me look even more forward to good weather, when I don’t have to leave Annie at home to get a meal. Last week I picked up a bag of Sfoglini beet fusilli from Olives and Grace. Have you been in this store? You can find cute recorders, craft sriracha, cute baby clothes, cards – in a nutshell, if you’re looking for a gift from artisan makers, you can definitely find it at Olives and Grace. Plus, Sofi is so warm and nice you feel compelled to tell her all about yourself. I love browsing through that place. There’s nothing better than a warm environment in a beautiful shop, is there?
So this beet fusilli. It’s beautiful. From the moment it emerges from the bag, I just fell in love with its pastel-y purple color. Then, when I cooked it, I was charmed by a pot of bright, vibrant magenta!!! I usually don’t take photos at my stove, but I had to in this case. Luckily for me I had just cleaned my stove area ;). Then, when I mix it with my black sesame pesto, it transforms again! This time to a soft deep purple that makes me yearn for foggy forests with hanging moss and flying squirrels (don’t ask). Of course, looks are one thing. What about the taste? It’s soooo good!!!!!!!!! It’s got this subtle earthy flavor that pairs perfectly with a light sauce such as pesto. I’d considered doing a cream sauce, but I wanted the flavor to really shine through.
I’m going to warn you from the start: you will need to rinse your mouth after eating this dish. Otherwise, you’ll have little bits of black sesame and basil peeking out through your beautiful smile. :). How do I know this? Because this happened to me. While I was delivering wedding albums to a client. I’m not saying I had a gray smile – it was just one of those things you wish a friend told you about, but when they didn’t, you secretly get mad at them because they are supposed to be a friend! has this happened to you?
I decided to use Thai basil because I had it on hand. I also love the taste and licorice-ish aroma of thai basil. It’s very different from common basil and is used in a lot of Thai cooking. Have you had Thai-stylie basil fried rice? You’ve got to use Thai basil in that, otherwise the flavor will not be the same.
As for the black sesame? Well, I’m allergic to all tree nuts except pistachios. I’ve known this since I was young, but I did an actual allergy test a couple of years ago. Hazelnuts, cashews, walnuts, pine nuts – I’m allergic in varying degrees to all of these. However, I can consume pistachios without any reaction. I’ve used pistachio in pesto (actually, I’ve got a post coming soon!), but this made me consider the people who also have tree nut allergies without a pistachio exception. What else could be used? Peanuts, I suppose. But wouldn’t that be pretty overpowering? I took a leap of faith and tried to use black sesame, which is obviously an obsession of mine. Instead of grinding it in a mortar and pestle, I pulsed it a couple of times in a spice grinder. It became a coarse meal and worked perfectly for this pesto. I then added it back to the mortar and pestle to grind it into the basil paste. I’ve included the simple instructions for a food processor as well, but I truly believe that you can get more juices out via a mortar and pestle. This article does a really great job explaining why. I based the proportions of this pesto off of the recipe here.
Mix it all up, and you get a totally different color! As it should – the pesto will lightly but thoroughly coat each piece of pasta, giving it a sheen of gray.
To store the pesto, transfer to a container or jar and lightly cover with a layer of oil. Then, store in the fridge. If you’re not using it for awhile, you can freeze it for best freshness.
RECIPE: Black Sesame Thai Basil Pesto
Paired with beet fusilli from Olives and Grace
3 cloves garlic
pinch sea salt
¾ cup packed thai basil leaves
1/4 cup toasted black sesame seeds
1/3 cup cheese – parmiggiano romano or pecorino. (I used a mix of both)
½ cup + 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1| In a mortar and pestle, grind garlic and sea salt and grind until fine.
2| Add basil leaves in batches (whatever can fit into your mortar and pesto) and grind in a circular motion until green juices flow. Basil should be crushed and significantly reduced in size.
3| Grind black sesame in a spice grinder for a couple of pulses. Add into mortar and pestle and grind until well incorporated. It should be a pretty thick paste.
4| Add cheese and grind!
5| Transfer to a larger bowl. Slowly stream in olive oil and mix with a wooden spoon.
6| Cook pasta according to directions until al dente.
7| Add enough pesto to drained pasta and toss to combine. Taste test to see if you added enough pesto. Top with pecorino (or whatever cheese you want to top your pasta).
An alternate method using food processor: Just toss in everything except olive oil and pulse. Proceed to step 5.
Note: This post was sponsored by Olives & Grace. All opinions expressed here are purely my own.