When I was first making this, I didn’t actually have a primary application in mind. I simply had a happy coincidence of things on hand: an extra pack of sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, and some basil. I thought to myself, why not blend them together into some kind of off-beat spread. A kind of not-quite-pesto. Even though almost all the ingredients are identical, calling it a pesto would give you the wrong impression. Those sun-dried tomatoes contribute a unique intensity that can’t be overlooked.
Now that I have made this, I’m eager to try it in a number of dishes. I’ve already used it in sandwiches. (I can’t wait to tell you what I did, it was so good I had to save it for it’s own post. Stay tuned.) I’m looking forward to adding it to a simple pasta as a light, flavorful sauce. There really is no end to uses for this. I’d bet it would make a great addition to sauteed chicken too. I’ll let you know if I come up with anything interesting.
Speaking of something interesting, below is a first attempt at buttering up some baguette slices with it and adding little slabs of goat cheese and roasting it in the oven for about 20 minutes at 350. I was hoping the top would get browned, but I became impatient after 20 minutes and gave up. I also tried a few directly under the broiler, but I ran into the issue of the bread burning (not good). It was really tasty though; if I can get it come come out how I imagine it, I’ll write a full article about it.
It’s quite simple to make as long as you have a food processor or blender. A food processor would likely make an easier task of it, but I made do with a blender.
And yes, I do seem to perpetually have pine nuts on hand. I buy them and use them in one application and have some left over that I wrap tightly and toss in my freezer. They are prone to spoilage if you leave them out (the fats will go rancid). But I’ve kept them for months tightly wrapped in the freezer with little to no ill effect.
Notes on consistency: As I mentioned above, you can use this in any number of ways depending on how thick or thin you make it. For a spread in a sandwich, don’t go much thinner than what the recipe calls for recipe. If you want to use it in a pasta or as a salad dressing, you may want to add more (or all) of the reserved steeping water. You can thin it further by adding more water. A splash of white wine would go well if you were going to serve it with roast chicken or pasta.
Sun-dried tomato spread/sauce/whatever
Makes about a cup to a cup and a half.
1 head garlic
12 sun-dried tomatoes (about 2 ounces) (the dry-packed kind, not the oil-packed)
2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup grated parm or romano cheese
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1 small bunch of basil
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
splash red-wine vinegar
juice of a half lemon
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 tsp pepper (didn’t measure, just cracked some into blender)
1. Begin by roasting the garlic. Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut off the top quarter of the head of garlic. The cloves should be exposed. Wrap in foil and toss into the oven (cut side still facing up). Bake for about 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool until it’s cool enough to handle.
2. Put the sun-dried tomatoes in a medium bowl and pour in the boiling water. Cover with plastic wrap or a small plate and allow to steep for about 20 minutes.
3. Transfer the sun-dried tomatoes to a food processor or blender. A food processor would be easier to use, but a blender will work just fine (I used a blender). It’s OK if some of the soaking liquid transfers into the blender, we’ll be adding some in later anyway.
Bonus Step: Transfer the soaking liquid to a small pot and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until the quantity has reduced by about half. This step isn’t really necessary, but will help intensify the flavor.
4. Add 6 tablespoons (about 1/3 cup) of the soaking liquid, cheese, oregano, oil, vinegar, lemon, pine nuts, red pepper, basil, and salt. Squeeze in the roasted garlic. Pulse the food processor/blender, pushing down the mixture with a spatula in between pulses, until it reaches the desired consistency (see above for consistency tips). Add more of the soaking liquid if you need to thin the mixture.