Heidi Swanson’s broccoli pesto

It can be a bit annoying for a seasonal cook reading Northern Hemisphere food blogs. Like what the hell are “garlic scapes“, known for their extreme curliness, which are bursting into their brief season in the Northern Hemisphere now? Are they – as I strongly suspect – the same dead straight thingies that are imported into Australia from China and sold as “garlic stems”? Inquiring cooks need to know.


Another recent mention of these garlic scapes came from Heidi Swanson who lives in San Francisco and writes the humungously popular 101 Cookbooks. Last week she published a recipe for Broccoli Pesto and Fusilli Pasta.

Her vegetarian recipes are known for using lots of wholegrains and a very wide variety of foods, both things I heartily approve of. However I usually avoid the comment threads – they tend to be very long and have lots of comments like “wow! that looks great, Heidi! I’m gonna make it real soon!” (Although here I did enjoy the three identical comments from Michael in Greece who is cut because he can’t get nice cheap broccoli there in May (suck it up, dude), and Ann’s questioning whether it would be OK to have it on brown rice instead. She didn’t sign herself off as “Ann, aged 11” and has no blog that I can check for omg ponies! so I presume she is a grown-up.)

Although broccoli is available pretty much year-round in supermarkets, it’s best in the colder months. Still, a late spring broccoli pasta is not really going to be what you want when it’s really starting to get quite bloody cold here, and has been drizzling all day to boot.

The original recipe, linked above, features a pesto tweaking the traditional elements used in a basil (aka Genovese) pesto – broccoli, not basil, walnuts, not pine nuts (hey Ann – I used pecans! I didn’t even ask!), parmesan cheese, garlic and oil. It includes lemon juice, which I usually include too. The pesto is served on wholegrain pasta (be careful not to overcook, Ann! wholegrain pasta is intolerant of overcooking and will lose all bounciness earlier than your regular pasta!).

Broccoli pesto isn’t like basil pesto in that you won’t be tempted to eat it by the spoonful out of the jar. Despite that, it has more to offer than the wholesome virtue factor that might initially appear to be it’s chief appeal. It makes a great solidly fresh base note when balanced with something sharply green and something intensely savoury.

I used kale instead of the recommended chard or spinach because it is pretty and we had some from Choku Bai Jo. And, because we needed a bit of sooky sweetness, I added some leeks caramelised with some Maggie Beer vino cotto and a tiny smidge of Kimlan, the bestest soy sauce evah. The dirtiness of leeks is handy because it provides a nifty excuse to show the Vietnamese strainer in a basket I should have included in my recent gadgets post. I like being able to use the water on the garden – even just flinging it out the door onto the grass is better than pouring it down the sink. You can use a salad spinner the same way, but these cost under five bucks and are handy if you want heaps of clean greens.

Leftover pesto the next day made a great lunch with some sliced green onions and small squares of extra firm tofu quickly fried with a splash of intensely savoury Japanese Flavour in a Bottle from Just Hungry.

After that, Ann, you’re on your own.


12 thoughts on “Heidi Swanson’s broccoli pesto

  1. Ann needs to try a random box of veggies delivery like I have! Can I substitute? Can I ever.

    With the random box, Stephanie Alexander is my best friend. 101 Cookbooks may become my second best friend now that I have found the zucchini & spinach soup recipe. Obviously I will be swapping the spinach for silverbeet though.

  2. Zoe, at the risk of sounding like Anne, I think that you should have a questions box. My current culinary predicament is what stove should I buy? Should I stump up for a dual fuel stove so I get the electric oven I need for baking with the gas jets I crave, or will a fan forced gas oven do the trick?

    And Stephanie Alexander has a recipe for broccoli pesto with walnuts that I’ve been making for quite some time. She doesn’t do the asiany additions that you do, but I’m sure she’d think they were a good idea.

  3. Hey, I use the salad spinner trick for saving the rinse water, too. Some of them have holes in the bowl, but fortunately I don’t have that kind. I’m also about to cook leeks, but mine will be with cheese. I should have a post on that soon, but right now I’m writing about fruit.

  4. It’s in the pipeline, Dr S.O. And yes, buy the expensive oven and get a 900 mm wide one while you’re at it. Think of the pleasure it will bring you.

  5. Thank you, wise ones. I have the desire for a 900mm oven, but as my kitchen has an entire bench area of about 1800mm I fear that would be rash. I have decided, the big gas one with the electric oven is for me. Just have to work out whether I still have a house to put it in, after the weekend’s hot water service debacle. Not conversation for a blog about dining and kitchens!

  6. Glad you decided not to go with fan forced — everyone I’ve ever known (including, for four years, moi) who’s had one has hated it and could never learn to second-guess it. Shower-cap souffles, unbrowned/burnt cheese topping, weeping meringues (that was me), you name it.

  7. OMG – those things are exactly what I want to do in a nice slow steady oven. Thank you Pavlov’s Cat, you are a godsend.

  8. I hate the comment threads of popular food blogs more than anything. All the people crowing about their food intolerances and asking about substitutions gives me a sense of deep sorrow, similar to the feeling you get after watching ‘My Super Sweet Sixteen.’

    The world is full of Anns, and it makes me sad.

  9. Loved your comments about the comments section on food blogs. My thoughts exactly. I really want to hear comments from people who’ve TRIED the recipe; also, from at least one or two who followed it exactly (just for kicks).

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