I shelled a heaping cup of pistachios for this pesto, then blanched them in boiling water and peeled the skins off. I nearly lost my thumbs in the process, but when my friend Liz, who is as picky an eater as I ever did cook for, pronounced this pesto better than regular pesto and the creamiest pesto ever, I deemed the chafed thumbs worth it. I confess that I also ate every other pistachio.
“Is there cilantro in here?” Liz asked.
“Yes, it’s all cilantro.”
“Is that why it’s spicy?”
“No, that would be the habanero peppers.”
“OH, well that would do it.”
This pesto has some heat. It’s optional, but without it, the pesto might be a different creature. Instead of habanero extract, you can also use a teaspoon (or two) of chili powder or crushed red pepper flakes with a clove of garlic.
“I like that you used hipster veggies,” Kristen said.
I was thoroughly amused that veggies could be deemed hipster. Then we had a conversation about how cauliflower was replacing kale in 2014.
The dinner party on my roof where all of the above dialogue took place. Heirloom tomato and beet salad, sheep’s milk feta, pasta with pistachio cilantro pesto, salt and pepper roasted veggies, grapes, sangria, peach cobbler for dessert, and prosecco at midnight.
I was worried the sun was going to set before all the food was ready for me to take pictures, but at exactly 8pm the sun actually came out for the first time that cloudy day, just as we stepped onto the roof deck carrying this feast.
“You live a charmed life,” Liz said, probably rolling her eyes. I reminded her that I almost lost my thumbs.*
*Just kidding. Please don’t be deterred from shelling and blanching your own pistachios. It’s totally worth it and not that bad. If there’s a man in your house, you could always put him to work 😉
- Boil 2 cups of water and pour it over the shelled pistachios in a bowl. Let soak for 2 minutes, then drain. Let the pistachios cool slightly, then slip the skins off by pinching each pistachio between your thumb and the side of your index finger.
- Add all the ingredients for the pesto to a blender or food processor and pulse until a smooth paste forms. You'll have to scrape the sides down a few times.
- To serve, boil pasta according to package instructions, then drain and rinse under cold water.
- Whisk pesto with 1/4 cup cold water, then pour over the cool pasta and toss to coat.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Stick a baking pan in the oven for 5 minutes while it is preheating.
- Toss the squash and cauliflower with oil, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl until evenly coated.
- Take the pan out of the oven and spread the veggies in an even layer on it. The veggies should sizzle. Heating the pan helps the veggies brown nicely.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on how brown or soft you like your veggies. Flip the veggies with a spatula once halfway through.
- Toss with the pasta or serve on the side.