I guess I’m a simple-food gal at heart. Last spring about this time I had the good fortune to enjoy an extravagant 9-course tasting menu (each course with its own wine pairing) at Manresa restaurant in Los Gatos, California. That night, James Beard award-winning chef and local foods guru David Kinch hosted Michelin-starred Mauro Colagreco of restaurant Mirazur on the Côte d’Azur.
The two chefs showed off their culinary chops with course after course made with molecular-gastronomy-foam this and rare-citrus that. But after all that fanciness, the detail that impressed me the most was one of the simplest. Kinch had made pesto (to accompany lamb) out of nasturtium leaves. Brilliant! So easy and delicious, yet it had never occurred to me to highlight those peppery leaves in anything but a salad.
When I went out to our test garden today and saw this patch of nasturtium leaves soaking up the sun, I knew what was on for lunch. Only one course, but it’s a beauty.
Orecchiette with nasturtium leaf pesto
1 1/2 tbsp. roasted pistachios
2 cups packed nasturtium leaves and tender stems, plus a few leaves and flowers for garnish
1 green onion, ends trimmed, sliced
6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
8 oz. dried orecchiette
1. Whirl pistachios in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Add 2 cups nasturtium leaves, green onion, olive oil, and parmesan.
2. Pulse until as smoothly or coarsely puréed as you like. If you want, season with a little salt.
3. Boil pasta in salted water according to package directions. Drain and toss with pesto. Season with more salt to taste. Garnish with nasturtium leaves and flowers.