The only thing that beats traditional basil pesto is its sun-dried cousin.
I first made this version on a Thursday evening as a thick sauce over baked salmon. It worked well because the garlic and tomatoes were flavorful enough to counter balance the naturally strong taste of the fish. To our delight, we had quite a bit of the pesto left over and used it in almost every meal for the rest of the weekend. We made tostadas con queso, toasted bread covered with garlic-tomato spread (the pesto) and melted Manchego cheese from Spain; the basic idea we took from our favorite tapas restaurant hidden in Paris’ 12th arrondissement: Corrida Café (88, rue de Picpus/metro: Daumesnil or Bel-Air). Our pesto also found its way into a pasta dish and lazily spread over pieces of fresh baguette- yum, yum.
About the cheese: Instead of using traditional parmesan, I used pecorino pepato, an Italian cheese made from ewe’s milk and dotted with black peppercorns. It definitely helped give this pesto its lively (and addictive) personality.
About the salt: I’ve been playing with all sorts of different French salts over the last couple months and this time I used gros sel de Camargue. It comes from the salt marshes in the Camargue- an area in southern France, just south of Arles, also known for its wild horses and pink flamingoes. I like the large salt crystals and the way they mix into the rest of the ingredients while adding a little extra “kick” from time to time. Add to taste.
About the olive oil: Depending on how dry the tomatoes are, you may have to adjust the amount of oil. I started with a few tablespoons and just kept adding until the mixture was the consistency I wanted- nice and smooth, but not too liquid and oily.
13 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
4 large cloves of garlic (chopped)
Huge bunch of basil
1 cut (uncut) sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup pecorino pepato cheese (grated)
3-4 pinches gros sel de Camargue
Dash of freshly cracked pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts (slightly toasted in a skillet over medium heat)
Combine all ingredients in a blender. Yes, it’s really that easy!