Thursday, May 10, 2012


He hovers around the bedside table, takes a sip of my water, spills it all over the books, tries to wipe up the mess with his pajama top, opens the shutters, run run run flings himself into my bed, walks around my head, steps on my hair, slips and catches himself on my forehead, shakes and pokes his daddy, gives up, slides underneath the covers, sighs and hums and sings, whispers a poem about the moon and knights and guns and the big blue sky, suctions himself onto me like a big warm leach, presses his forehead into mine, allows me to massage his earlobes, exhales his sour morning breath into my face, and starts whispering into my ear.

Mama mama mama hi mama hi good morning.

No Dash no no please go away.

But mama it is so zen in your bed 

So just close your eyes and be still.

But is it that time you know the time when I can come into your bed and still get a sticker for not getting into your bed in the night.

Dashi six in the morning is questionable.

Mama you have bad breath.

Maybe from all the pea pesto I've been eating.

Mama let's go make your coffee. 

Yes let's.

He finds the coffee cone, helps drag out the Cuisinart, asks what's so great about coffee, raises his eyebrows as I slowly lick a spoonful of Nutella, watches me blanch peas and parsley and kale and mint and sage, listens to the garlic popping in the oil, presses pause on the Beastie Boys song and says I know that guy died but that crazy music gives me a headache, nicks his finger while grating the cheese, picks a lemon, lets me listen to one more Beastie Boys song in exchange for five minutes playing Plants vs. Zombies, asks me to define the word addiction, sets the table, wakes up his daddy, wakes up his Bella, picks up my phone and announces I'll do your job and take photos of the pea pesto so why  don't you just sit down mama.
Around this time last year, I posted about pea shoot pesto. I just checked out the recipe. I like it but it's quite specific and leaves very little room for play. This recipe is all about experimenting. And it's also very good for kids because they can come up with their own combinations.

I'm calling this pea pesto but it really should be called green pesto. Almost anything in your fridge that's green can go in. I like peas but I'm not in love with them so it helps to have a few other vegetables and herbs in the pesto to mellow out the pea flavor. Amounts in the recipe below are approximate. The fun part about making pesto is that it's different every time and you taste as you go along. You get to decide which flavor dominates. For lamb or steak I would crank up the garlic flavor. For pasta add extra peas/greens because you can sprinkle on cheese at the end. For pizza I would probably do extra salty and cheesy.

1. It needs more salt and acid (sherry wine vinegar, lemon) than you think. Keep adding. Keep tasting.
2. It's easier to integrate all the components when the nuts and vegetables are warm.
3. Garlic confit and its oil are kick ass additions (also great to look at on top).
4. Add fresh herbs (parsley, mint, basil, sage) by blanching them in the salty water when the peas are almost done cooking.
5. Blanch kale or chard stems in salty water and add to the pesto, just make sure to pulverize well. I've been keeping a bag of vegetable scraps in the fridge and it all goes into my pesto.
6. Almonds with skins on add nice texture and flavor.
7. Add a half a stick of sweet butter to the warm pesto. Motherfreakingfrackingyum.
8. Make the pesto in the morning and leave it out all day. Don't firm it up by placing it in the fridge. Just cover the top with a little bit of olive oil. Make cheddar and pesto grilled cheese sandwiches, ricotta and pesto-filled crepes, scoop a spoonful into half an avocado, add it to your salad dressing, just have it around as a general snack.
9. It turns an odd color when baked, but pea pesto is a tasty base on pizzas on tarts. Spread in on your dough; layer on purple potatoes, caramelized onions, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and sautéed greens; bake it off; and you'll get something like this.

Makes enough to cover a tart or coat a pound of pasta with some leftover for sandwiches. The two final ingredients (garlic confit and butter) are optional. Make garlic confit ahead of time if you're going to use it (see below for details). Please know that these are approximate amounts. Play.

handful salt (for boiling water)
2 cups peas (fresh or frozen)
2 cups chopped kale and/or chard leaves (stems are great too)
1 cup fresh herbs (any combination of bail, sage, parsley, and mint leaves and stems)
3/4 cup toasted nuts (walnuts, almonds with skins or not, pine nuts, pecans)
1 cup (at least) of grated cheese (any combination of parmesan, pecorino, asiago, goat, manchego, gruyere)
juice/zest from 1 lemon
at least 3/4 cup olive oil (or garlic olive oil from garlic confit, see below for details)
2 teaspoons vinegar (sherry, white wine, or champagne)
salt to taste
pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, grated or chopped
salt to taste
pepper to taste
6 cloves garlic confit, see below for details
3 tablespoons butter (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add a handful of salt. Add peas and cook for 2 minutes. Add combination of kale, chard and fresh herbs to the peas. After 10 seconds, drain everything. Drain really well. You might even need to squeeze some of the water out of the herbs and greens.

Throw peas, blanched greens/herbs and the remaining ingredients into a food processor and pulverize for 20 seconds. Scrape down the size. Pulverize some more. Taste. Start adding what's missing. If you're not sure, spread some on bread to taste. Or dip in a carrot. Or feed a spoonful to someone else in the house and ask what it needs. Sometimes it helps to use a few other mouths. 

Scoop into a jar and then cover the top with a think layer of olive oil. You can leave it room temperature if you're going to eat it that day. Or store it in the fridge for a few days. Or freeze for months. 

Break apart a few heads of garlic. It's okay to have bunches of 2 or 3 cloves. Poke a tiny hole in each clove to prevent the cloves from exploding. Place unpeeled cloves in a deep pot and cover with olive oil. Add pinch of salt and herbs if you desire (sprig of thyme or branch of rosemary). Bring to the boil. Turn heat to low and cover with a lid. Simmer until garlic is cooked through, soft, and creamy (20-30 minutes). Cool to room temperature. You can keep the cloves (with skins on) and oil for a few weeks in the fridge. Make sure cloves are covered with oil. Add more oil if you need to. Squeeze garlic out of the skins as needed.


  1. I am relieved to see you okayed frozen peas, cause that's how I do it and I thought it might be the lazy-woman-who-doesnt-truly-love-food-or-belong-in-berkeley way. So I do peas, red onion, garlic, olive oil, lemon, s+p. Spread it on toasted bread. Yum.

  2. Really enjoyed this piece. Dash sounds like a a love-filled tornado on two little legs. Am crazy about green garlic confit and haven't made it in a while. Love the suggestion to leave pestos out and just cover w/ oil. I can see how the flavors would have a chance to really blossom.

  3. oh, the mornings. they come quick, don't they? i have a warm little leach too, who whispers and wiggles a bit too early for my taste. about the pesto - we cannot have citrus in our househould (try not to pity us), for this recipe could you just up the vinegar a bit? sounds delicious, and the pea shoots are everywhere this time of year...

    1. ah. you have a warm leach too. nice.

      citrus isn't necessary at all. you could up the vinegar. but you don't have to. taste it and see what you think. let some other flavor come through. acid is my thing. it's what i crave. my mouth waters when i think about it. but something else might work for you.

      pea shoot pesto is so good.

  4. Too bad about the citrus, but lots of things can be used to add acidity. Tamarind, rhubarb (especially nice this time of year), pomegranate, cranberry come most immediately to mind, but you could even take things in a funkier direction by making saurkraut, say, and using the resulting liquid to add an acid taste. Won't taste like lemons but hey, could be even better!

  5. erin @ yummy supperMay 11, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    I wanna hang out with your adorable leach!

    When we are in the pool with Lilah, we call her the limpet. Love that full-body contact. It's so sweet!

    And pea pesto... yes please. You are the pesto master.


  6. I just made this but used spinach and peas and it's terrific! Also made the egg, asparagus salad and served it with lamb--SO good. I tried the caramel sauce but mine came out a bit bitter--is that what you mean by the balance between burned and creamy? mine was closer to burned?
    thanks so much. Zaheva

    1. zaheva. wow. love hearing about what you've made. that egg asparagus salad is one of my favorites ever.

      for the caramel, it's more a matter of personal preference. i love it bitter and intense. but often when i make it people thinks it's too much. so play with taking it off the heat quite a bit earlier. maybe when it's the color of light honey. let me know! email me if you need help.

    2. or you can post questions on dash and bella Facebook page.

  7. When I discovered your blog a couple of weeks ago, I read most of it in one sitting. Then I fantasized for a while about the time when I will have kids and they will help me in the was one of those brightly coloured imaginary films where the grass is always green and there are cute little ginger bread houses everywhere with kitty cats in the windows - totally unrealistic. Then I had a panic attack because it was 4AM and I thought I should get all the sleep I can get in the years before I have kids.
    Anyway, I love your blog, your writing is amazing, your pictures and recipes too, but your!

    1. anda. you caught me in a very vulnerable and lost moment and you made me cry! thank you. i'm going to sit down tomorrow and write some more. your words mean so much.

  8. Enjoyed the article. Your write beautifully. Touches you!

  9. I adore you, Dash, your writing, your pea pesto. I don't adore sour breath or the Beastie Boys, but after reading this, I'm pretty sure I could learn to love those things, too.

    1. i adore YOU, cheryl. we should listen to some beastie boys together. and cook!


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