Virtually every place I’ve lived has had mint growing, usually by choice. Despite its reputation for taking over, I find the presence of mint to be largely a virtue, because ready access to it can lead to many happy experiments. Even with a decent looking mint supply blooming by the back deck, there are times when you need to purchase some. On those rare occasions, you could do much worse than buying mint from Good Hummus, an organic farm in California’s Capay Valley that enjoys strong ties to the local community.
We picked up two bunches of mint at the Farmers’ Market, because Jen wanted to make a pea shoot pesto recipe she’d found in Sunset. We were unable to locate pea shoots until the last minute, and bought far fewer than the recipe called for, so Jen, our resident pesto expert, set about improvising a recipe built around the mint with pea shoots and Italian parsley rounding out the greenery.
I can’t precisely explain how Jen makes pesto. She learned in Italy, sans recipe, and just tosses things in the food processor until it comes out tasting awesome. In this spirit, olive oil, garlic, pea shoots, mint, parsley and parmigiano reggiano were neatly layered before being pulverized by spinning blades.
After the first round of processing, we both tasted the pesto and decided it needed more mint. Neither of us were fans of the initial pea shoot dominance, and we were very glad that we had skimped on them. A lot more mint went in. Some more parsley, too. Finally we added some walnuts, black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. A final spin and the pesto was ready.
While Jen was mixing the pesto, I had prepared some sugar snap peas to cook with the pasta (a cheese tortellini, rather than the ravioli the recipe called for, at this point, the recipe was barely involved). We boiled the pasta and peas together for a couple minutes. Sugar snap peas only need about 2 or 3 minutes in boiling water, so if you have dry pasta, wait until it’s almost cooked before adding them.
The pasta, peas and pesto all went into a big bowl to be tossed together.
This turned out to be a really tasty alternative to basil based pesto. The mint was surprisingly mild and balanced by the other flavors, and Jen’s pesto is always the best I’ve had.
All the photos from this week are here.