This blog is all about Pesto and Pistou, and there is a recipe below.
Skip the history tale, tips, and tricks, take me to the RECIPE NOW > CLICK HERE
A pistou is a satisfying sauce, like a pesto.
It is a staple for every seriously-healthy-but-also-enjoying-not-punishing-with-food home.
WHAT IS AS HEALING AS A GOOD MEDICINE, AS CLEANSING AS AN ACID TRIP, AND YET, SO DELICIOUS, YOU MAY ACTUALLY FIND YOURSELF STANDING IN FRONT OF THE FRIDGE ON A HOT DAY, EATING IT STRAIGHT FROM THE JAR, BY THE THICK SPOONFUL?
IF YOU SAID “PISTOU!”, YOU WOULD BE RIGHT!
DID YOU SAY “PISTE EWE” “PISS TOO” OR “PEA STEW”, “PESTOH” OR EVEN, “WHAT’S PISTOU?
I HAVE A BLOG POST FOR YOU!
First, some background.
Pistou – pronounced more like “pihs-tu”, is just like pesto, SO LET’S EXPLAIN PESTO FIRST, SO EVERYONE HAS THE SAME FOUNDATIONAL UNDERSTANDING.
Aromatic pesto is a familiar green sauce that hails from Liguria, the basil growing capital of Italy. Based on bushels of dawn-picked Italian basil, crushed in a mortar with a sprinkle of salt and a clove of peeled raw garlic, with a handful of creamy pine nuts and a generous amount of tasty-fresh extra virgin olive oil, with several grates of Sardinian pecorino or some Parmegiano Reggiano.
It gets its name from the pestle used to turn the ingredients into a paste. The pestle in a mortar and pestle gets its name in turn from the wood used in the Liguria region to make it: pestelludi wood. It is traditionally served in the capital, Genoa, as a midday summer meal, tossed to coat homemade egg noodles, or served over gnocchi, and eaten at room temperature with a squeeze of lemon and some more cheese.
ABOUT EATING GREEN THINGS
Although Italy may be one of the original cradles of salad eating (probably a natural inclination people have, due to their high concentration of MTHFR gene variants), back then, most people on the planet would never choose to eat a green salad the way they might today. Pesto itself evolved to the current basil-forward sauce it is now from the Italian habit of spreading garlic paste over foods in order to preserve them, which dates back to the 1600s.
At this time, people really did not choose to eat a lot of leafy plants. They understood their value as medicine, but not many were palatable, and they did not often plant them to cultivate. The monks and ascetics were the largest consumers of these humble greens.
Because of the intense bitterness of the plants, they were traditionally emergency food, or in the case of celery, or parsley, used as seasoning, not as a main dish. But, like many LOONG trends seen in human history, the ever – growing, still not over plant-based eating trend created innovation in the realm of recipes.
There is evidence that this sauce developed in the late 1800s when someone decided that adding basil (which basically grows like a weed here, and grows especially well wherever tomatoes are planted) to the garlic paste was a stellar idea. In fact, they experimented with marjoram, rye, parsley and coriander leaves as well, and sometimes included those when basil was not growing.
The connection of pesto to this region, its native elements and history, mean that true pesto should be made with olive oil, basil, pine nuts and dry cheese, and not too much else. Because this definition of pesto is fairly narrow, it means that all the variations we might make due to availability or budget (should I buy a new kettle, or should I buy 100 g of organic pine nuts?) should have a different name.
And they do: Pistou.
Pistou is a cold sauce from the Provence region of France that uses basil, olive oil and garlic. It omits the pine nuts, and it also doesn’t seem to mean as much to the people of Provence as pesto means to Ligurians, and for that reason, they seem to approve of the name being used to refer to other sauces that fall under the same umbrella, such as olive oil, basil, garlic and almond combos, or marjoram, kale, basil, garlic, and olive oil combos.
When folks like Minimalist Baker put kale, garlic, hemp seeds and water in a blender and call it pesto, I am not sure than Genoans would approve. Tasty? Yes. Pesto? Not sure.
I choose to call my sauce, with is as experimental with herbs as the original monks, and decidedly cheese and pine nut free, a pistou. And it gives me an opportunity to wield my flawless French pronunciation, too ;-).
Now, for why it is so healthy!
(When done right).
Unfortunately, the pesto available in stores in Canada in 2020 is often made with canola or soybean oil, or with rennet, an animal-flesh product, or with stale olive oil and cheese. It often lacks the freshness and flavour of the basil, and is either bland and oily, or salty and cheesy. They lack vibrancy, acidity, depth of flavour.
But, when done right, pistou is a vehicle for a garden’s worth of fresh, liver-loving herbs. Herbs that help you to produce bile, which helps to keep you healthy and detoxified. Herbs that can help to gently chelate or bind to heavy metals, and which provide lots of phytochemicals that can support the enzymes in the liver that help to deconjugate toxins.
HOW TO MAKE IT
PICK YOUR HERBS
For my recipe base, I went with what I had – two kinds of basil, both Thai and Italian, two kinds of parsley, both flat and curly.
I like many different herbs, plus that is what I had.
I also added the green tops from several carrots from my garden.
These carrots looked ready to pick, but were, as usual, still very small (does everyone get fooled by the bushy green tops and pick them too early? No, just me?).
The carrots were tender and tasty and I ate those raw – omit the orange part from your pistou. You do not need to throw away or compost the green tops though, they taste mild and sweet and herbaceous.
Be sure to trim the tough ends off the carrot greens and give them a wash.
I also added the flat leaves from kale.
Now, some herb stems are okay, if they are tender and thin, like the cilantro stems. But, if they are thick and stringy, like on this kale…
…you should leave them out, or your pesto my end up a bit stringy too.
I also had some dandelion greens growing in my windowsill lettuce planter.
I didn’t plant them, they were what we call volunteers, plants that grow spontaneously from rogue seeds, but since they were there, and I knew dandelion are INCREDIBLY good for the liver (dandelion is even being studied for its anticancer effects), and these ones were definitely unsprayed, I decided to blend it up too.
So…in the end, in went two kinds of basil, flat and curly parsley, carrot greens, kale, dandelion, plus bits and bobs of cilantro, dill, broccoli and radish sprouts and some wilted watercress.
It tasted ok at this point, but it was not emulsified, and since I had all this greenery, it had a slightly bitter finish. So, then I added hemp seeds and some roasted cashews for heft and creaminess. Then I added some fresh lemon juice to brighten it up and complement the grassiness.
I added garlic-infused olive oil instead of whole garlic cloves in order to make the recipe low FODMAP for me while I am healing and rebalancing my gut. I used a vegan omega 3 oil blend in equal measure to get my omega 3s and to help the blender to run and blend up smoothly, so that I could break up any last stringy bits.
I also added salt, for flavour and to balance out the potassium in the greens.
The end result was tasty! Along with the oils there was a ton of richness to help it melt into carby things, and it also looked like traditional pesto with the flecks of nuts and hemp seeds in it.
HERE IS THE RECIPE
- 5 cups packed roughly chopped, clean fresh greens (large stems removed)
- 3 Tbsp hemp seeds
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp sea salt (plus more to taste)
- 1/4 cup garlic-infused extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup omega 3 oil
- Add everything and blend/mix on high until a loose paste forms.