cauliflower & almond pesto

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Summer is the time for pesto. Bundles of basil, stacks of scapes and crates of cauliflower are abundant at the Collingswood Farmers’ Market.

Joe and I have hosted garlic scapes – from Savoie Organic Farm – in our pesto plates for the past few weeks. Ready for an updated pesto persona, we were delighted to see organic cauliflower bouquets at Muth Family Farms.

Cauliflower and almonds are paired in this pesto dish. It can be finished with sun-dried tomatoes and capers or some other market find.

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cauliflower & almond pesto

yield: 1 pound pasta (or less if you wish)

1/2 head (or 2 cups) cauliflower, cut to florets and washed well
1/3 cup almonds, raw (unroasted and unsalted)
1-3 garlic cloves to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 pound pasta (orecchiette or your choice)
1 cup (or more) hot pasta cooking water
1/3 cup parmigiano-reggiano, finely grated
salt and pepper to taste
sun-dried tomatoes, optional
capers, optional

Note on salt: Less is more throughout the pesto-making process. The pasta water is salted and the cheese is salty. More salt can always be added at the end.

Using a food processor, process the cauliflower florets, almonds and garlic clove(s) to a small rough chop. You can choose the level of fineness; I prefer a slightly chunkier texture.

With the processor on low speed, slowly pour in the olive oil until all ingredients are combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Set aside. (I transfer the pesto to a bowl and hit it with a generous pour of olive oil at this point.)

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water to al dente (firm to the bite). Feel free to taste your pasta during cooking to test for doneness. Strain the pasta and save two cups of the pasta cooking water.

Place the cooked and drained pasta into a large saute pan with the pesto mixture. Over medium-high heat, gradually add the hot pasta cooking water to the saute pan and stir fast, adding more water to reach your desired consistency. The hot pasta cooking water will warm the pesto and form a sauce (stirring fast will create an emulsion between the water and olive oil in the pesto). Remove from heat and add grated cheese (tomatoes and/or capers if using). Continue stirring and adding more hot pasta cooking water as needed. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

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