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Zesto

Posted by Didi Davis on

We all love Pesto. It's so easy to slather on anything and is surprisingly perfect. Pesto's reach is well beyond it's humble origins as a pasta sauce and it is a condiment that doesn't mind being changed. Different nuts and herbs as well as tart additions of vinegar or lemon juice all have found their way into Pesto.

Zhoug is a chile paste; many versions of which are used throughout the Middle East. Its star herb is the refreshing cilantro and Zhoug is the topping of choice at falafel stands and kebab restaurants.

Here comes a version of both that's green and fresh, light and spicy. It's really not Pesto at all - or Zhoug - it's Zesto. Lighter than Pesto (no nuts, olive oil, or cheese), with the lingering bright flavors and spiciness of Zhoug, Zesto is packed with basil, quick to make, and ideal for hot summer weather. All you need is a blender or food processor.

1/2 pound jalapeno chile peppers, stemmed and seeded
1 cup, packed, basil leaves
1/2 cup, packed, parsley leaves
2 good-size cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste (we used Cornish Sea Salt, but any will work)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste, optional
1 - 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until still slightly chunky, not completely smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more sea salt if needed. Transfer to a bowl, give a stir or two, and serve. Make Zesto ahead as it keeps well for several days in the refrigerator.

Dollop, spread, or dip on:

-Grilled chicken or fish
-Grilled meats, especially lamb
-Falafel
-American style sandwiches, especially club
-Corn on the cob or cut off the cob
-Tomatoes
-Cucumbers
-Avocado
-Scrambled eggs
-Crackers or bread
-Soups, stews
-Bean dishes
-Mix with yogurt for a vegetable dip
-Anything else that requires a kick

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