When you think of pesto, you probably think of a basil-heavy green sauce made with pine nuts and garlic. This is indeed a pesto, and it is probably the most common type of pesto out there. What you might not know is that these ingredients do not define “pesto.” The name “pesto” means “to crush” and it refers to the fact that nuts, herbs and spices are ground up (often with a mortar and pestle) to make a sauce. You can use all kinds of different ingredients to make a flavorful pesto sauce to top off pasta, pork, chicken or even to simply serve with crostini as a snack.
This particular pesto uses walnuts where other pestos might use pine nuts. Walnuts are a good choice for a pesto because they have a slightly sweet, nutty taste to them ( I find pine nuts often to be on the bitter side) and a really nice buttery flavor that melds well with the olive oil in the pesto. The walnuts are combined with a sharp, dry cheddar
as well as shallots, salt, pepper, vinegar, mustard and olive oil. Don’t use a yellow cheddar for this pesto, as it has the wrong texture and flavor. If you can’t find a good dry, white cheddar, use a harder cheese like Parmesan instead and you’ll still get great results. The pesto is the walnut-colored mixture pictured below, with some basil pesto for contrast.
Open my pantry and you’ll see all kinds of canned beans. They’re just so useful – good in soups, chilis, tossed in salads or processed into hearty dips – that I will always keep plenty around.
Dips especially are a favorite of mine to make because I usually have something around that requires dipping, whether it is a bag of tortilla chips, a batch of pretzel sticks, fresh veggies or some homemade pita chips. This white bean hummus goes well with all of them and is an easy, satisfying snack to make for yourself or if you are entertaining friends.
I was inspired to throw this together after going through some old bookmarks and coming across Orangette‘s White Bean Hummus recipe. I made some significant changes, blending her recipe with a more traditional hummus recipe by using half white beans and half garbanzo beans. I also cut back on the tahini and (as you might have guessed since I already cut back on the tahini in the recipe) skipped the optional step of drizzling the finished product with olive oil. Tahini sometimes can have a slightly oily feel to it on its own and I simply prefer hummus to be a bit thicker and less greasy. Plus, I’m the kind of snacker who likes to scoop dips, not simply to dunk a chip and move on.
I love salsa. It’s one of my favorite foods, though I suppose that it is actually classified as a condiment. The difference between a condiment and an actual “food” is that a condiment is rarely eaten on it’s own. Consider that ketchup – the condiment displaced by salsa as America’s most eaten – is never eaten by the spoonful unless by 7 year olds who think they have found a clever way to “beat the system” and eat their veggies. Salsa, in my opinion, can actually be eaten on its own, if you were so inclined. Isn’t it really a form of gazpacho?
All that said, I do generally eat salsa with something else. My current favorite way to eat it is on salads, with a bit of sour cream, corn and black beans mixed in. I also like to top tacos with salsa, which I did with this batch, as a matter of fact. The best way to eat salsa is really with tortilla chips, though.
This salsa is fresh and flavorful, with a refreshing tang from the tomatillos and some spice from the habanero peppers. The heat level is very easy to adjust. For mild, as I’ve indicated below, you can use a green chili. If you like it hot, like I do, then increase the heat by using habanero pepper instead. You’ll have to guess about the heat level the first time you make this. I suggest starting with about tablespoon of habanero pepper. Remember that you can always increase the tomato and onion if it gets too hot for you. The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll end up with a lot of salsa.
Also, before you get to thinking that I’m being too vague with my “medium” directions, keep in mind that salsa is proportional and not an exact science. There’s no wrong way and you can never have too much.