My brother texted me this quote yesterday morning and it seemed terribly appropriate. “And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.” The full letter by John Steinbeck to his son is worth reading if you can spare a minute.
I felt a weight lift as I crossed the Oklahoma border this weekend. Suddenly I have a full social calendar—happy hour, lunch, dinner, trivia night at a smoky bar—and catching up with those who know me best seems to be doing me some good. I’m almost wondering why I left in the first place.
I threw together this pea pesto before I left Kansas City. My friend Alissa told me about a pea pesto that she made last week and I couldn’t get the concept out of my head. Sweet fresh peas and creamy cashews brightened with lemon and mint seemed like a winning combination, plus the flavors reminded me of the spring pea and asparagus pasta that I enjoyed so much earlier this month.
I wasn’t sure what to serve the pesto on, but I came across some brown arborio rice in my pantry and mixed the two together for a creamy, almost risotto-like blend. While it is not the most photogenic of dishes, it is a simple, comforting meal that is easy enough to throw together on a weeknight. Thin slices of crisp radish break up the texture and provide some complementary color to liven up the presentation.
If you like to cook fish, I imagine this would make a great side dish for it. You could also use the pesto as a spread on crostini or toss it with pasta instead of rice (my friend Alissa served her pesto on spaghetti squash). I bet it would even be good on scrambled eggs or an omelet, or tossed with roasted fingerling potatoes.
If you’re going the rice route, please take note of the cooking method I used here for the brown rice. I’ve finally found the trick to cooking perfectly tender, not mushy brown rice!
The method from Saveur is simple: bring a big pot of water to a boil, dump in rinsed brown rice of any variety, and boil for 30 minutes. Drain the rice (reserve some of the cooking water if you’re making this pesto), return the rice to the pot, and cover. Let the rice steam in the pot for 10 minutes, and voila, you have perfectly cooked brown rice!
- 1½ cups arborio/short grain brown rice (or any other variety of brown rice)
- 2 cups fresh peas (from approximately 1½ pounds peas in pods) or a 10-ounce package frozen peas
- 2 small garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- ⅓ cup raw cashews
- ⅓ cup grated Parmesan
- 2 packed tablespoons mint leaves (more to taste)
- ½ lemon, juiced (more to taste)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- ½ cup reserved rice or pasta cooking water (or plain water if necessary)
- 6 radishes, end removed and sliced into super thin rounds
- Make the rice: bring a big pot of water to a boil, dump in rinsed brown rice and boil, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Reserve 1 cup cooking water for the pesto as you drain the rice. Return the rice to the pot and cover. Let the rice steam in the pot for 10 minutes.
- Make the pesto: Bring a small saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. Add peas and cook for 2 minutes (they should be tender to the bite but retain a bit of structure). Drain peas and let them cool down for a few minutes.
- Set aside ½ cup of your cooked peas. Whirl the remaining peas in a food processor with garlic, cashews, Parmesan, mint, lemon juice and salt until smooth, (about 2 to 3 minutes), scraping down the bowl as necessary. While the machine is running, drizzle in the olive oil. Taste, and add more mint, lemon juice and/or salt if desired.
- The pesto will be very thick, so stir in up to ½ cup cooking water to thin it out if you are tossing the pesto with rice (or pasta). Mix the pesto into the cooked brown rice and season with salt to taste. Stir in the leftover peas and the sliced radishes. Sprinkle more grated Parmesan cheese over the dish if desired. Serve warm.