Is it obvious that I'm mad about cilantro and green onions? It's very common for these greens to appear as garnishes in Asian food, hence the liberal sprinkling you see on many of the dishes I've written about here and here. Every now and then, I do something radical with them, like green onion hummus!
One of my favorite ways to eat these greens together is in a Chinese dipping sauce that often comes with poached chicken in Malaysia. And that is essentially the basis of the ingredients in this flavor-packed pesto.
The idea came when I was flipping through The Book of Greens by Jenn Louis and landed on the "Pesto 101" section. The classic Genoese sauce, according to the book, is made with basil, nuts, garlic, and cheese. But it's not just for basil. You can use countless greens to make a pesto, the book encourages. A lightbulb appeared in my head when I read that sentence.
So following the basic template for making a good pesto sauce outlined in the book and referencing the flavor profile of the Chinese dipping sauce, I combined cilantro and green onions with garlic and ginger and enhanced the taste with sesame oil and lime juice.
In keeping with the Asian theme, cashew became my nut of choice in this pesto for it is commonly used in Asian stir-fries. The result, I have to say, is stunning and delivers such a refreshing way to enjoy pasta. And you know what? It is also lip-smackingly good smeared on toasts, stirred into soups, and served with roast vegetables.
The Book of Greens
My obsession with veggie-themed cookbooks is no secret (read about it here, here, and here) and The Book of Greens by Jenn Louis is one of those encyclopedic cookbooks that is absolutely necessary in my exploration and discovery of new vegetables, a fun project filed under the Spring Discovery series here.
Agretti, chickweed, and minutina are just some of the wonderful greens highlighted in the book. There's something about seeing lovely names of vegetables in alphabetical order that gets me really excited and inspired. (Nerd alert!) Each featured green in the book comes with a quick introduction (nice to meet you, spigarello!) that includes buying, cleaning, and storing tips followed by several recipes for a long-lasting relationship. Spinach pancakes and I, BFFs!
Asian Style Pesto Noodles with Roasted Green Onions
Inspired by the Pesto 101 guide in The Book of Greens by Jenn Louis to think outside the box, this pesto is made with ingredients that are used in the Chinese cilantro and green onion dipping sauce. Makes 1-1/2 cups pesto. Pasta recipe makes 3 to 4 servings. You will have more pesto than needed. Use this pesto to add a touch of Asian flavor in soup, roasts, and even toasts and sandwiches.
1/2 cup raw cashews
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1-1/2 cups tightly packed cilantro, roughly chopped
1/2 cup tightly packed green onions, green part only, roughly chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
8 stalks green onions, white part only
Olive oil, salt, and pepper for roasting
8 oz (225g) pasta noodles of your choice
2 red chilies, deseeded and sliced lengthwise (optional)
Chopped green onions, green part only, and cilantro for garnish
To make the pesto, place the cashews, garlic, ginger, and sea salt in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add the cilantro, green onions, and olive oil. Continue to pulse, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl whenever necessary, until the greens are coarsely chopped. Add the sesame oil and lime juice and process until all the ingredients are finely chopped and fully incorporated. Makes about 1-1/2 cups.
Storing tips from the book: Transfer to an airtight container and drizzle just enough oil over the top to cover. This will prevent the pesto from oxidizing and turning brown. Use immediately, refrigerate for up to 4 days, or freeze for up to 1 month. To thaw, place in the refrigerator overnight or until fully thawed.
Preheat oven to 400° F. Place green onions on a lined roasting sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until soft and the top slightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the pasta noodles to salted boiling water and cook according to package instructions until 'al dente' or they still have a slight bite to them. Drain well and reserve some pasta cooking liquid. In a large mixing bowl, toss the noodles with 1/3 cup of the pesto, adding more if necessary. Add some of the pasta cooking liquid 1 tablespoon at a time if the mixture is too dry. Add the roasted green onions and sliced chilies and toss to combine. Divide the noodles into serving plates and top with chopped green onions and cilantro.