Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Do you Pesto or Pistou?

Spaghetti tossed with Basil Pistou and Asparagus

I enjoy both cooking and dining out. Trying out new restaurants is a hobby of mine that I wish I could indulge in more in the future when I complete my research project and can then go back to work full-time (did I just say that I was looking forward to working full-time??!!).

One of the reasons that I love about eating out is that I discover new things all the time and it inspires what I do in my own kitchen. A few weekends ago, we were in the Blue Mountains for an engagement party. We had lunch at a lovely courtyard bistro there. As usual, I carefully perused the menu and this caught my attention: "Organic Vegetable Soup with Garlic Pistou, served with a side of soughdough baguette". Hmmm... never seen that word “pistou” before. So of course I had to order it. When my soup arrived, I discovered that pistou looked and tasted very similar to pesto. The soup was perfectly complimented by the pistou.

After some research on the internet, I discovered this interesting article “Pistou and Pesto: Basil's Last Stand” by Kate Heyhoe. I enjoyed reading this article because she discussed both pesto and pistou. I learnt that pistou is a French sauce from Provence similar to pesto, but without pine nuts and Parmesan. Kate explained that the basic French pistou traditionally uses only basil, olive oil, garlic and salt. I think this is great for vegans and also those allergic to nuts. Kate also has a recipe for Soupe au Pistou, a famous soup in French cuisine, some may refer to as a Provencal version of minestrone.

Freezing Pistou & Pesto:
For those of you who are heading towards cooler months, freezing pistou may be a good idea. You can always add in pine nuts and Parmesan later if you wanted to have pesto instead. Susan of Food Blogga wrote in this post that her husband, Jeff, made a good suggestion about how to freeze pesto while retaining the green colour - stop the oxidation process by covering the top of it with olive oil.

After having my first taste of pistou, I was craving for it. It’s warming up in Sydney (20 bushfires recorded last weekend), so I wasn’t keen on making soup to go with the pistou. Instead, I wanted to prepare a pasta dish that still tastes good at room temperature. I also wanted to use asparagus. Asparagus is currently in peak season in Australia and the prices will soon go as low as $1 a bunch.

Spaghetti with Basil Pistou and Asparagus

250g thin (no. 4) spaghetti
Basil pistou (recipe here)
Asparagus, sliced diagonally into 4 & lightly steamed
Handful of semi-dried tomatoes, sliced thinly
2 rounded tbsp capers, drained & halved
salt & freshly cracked pepper
Optional: roughly grated Parmesan cheese

- Cook the pasta according to package directions. Reserve some of the pasta cooking liquid.
- Drain pasta and immediately toss it with the pistou and all other ingredients (except for cheese, salt & pepper). If the pasta seems a bit dry, add some of the reserved pasta liquid or add more olive oil.
- Adjust seasoning with salt & pepper if needed.
- Serve immediately as it is or with some parmesan cheese.

This pasta dish is versatile because it can be served at room temperature. If serving later, cover with cling film to prevent the dish from drying out. Quikong suggested using grilled cherry tomatoes instead of the semi-dried ones. This pasta was perfect for a spring picnic. To take this dish up a notch, I served it with grilled scallops.

I love scallops, especially those with roe on. If you want to know more about how to buy and cook scallops, have a look here. The roes can be of different colours and it does taste slightly different. I prefer the darker orange coloured roe because it has a richer flavour. See how pretty they are even when they are raw:

Raw Scallops

Grilled Scallops

8 raw scallops, with roe on
1 garlic clove, crushed
Dash of freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt & pepper

- Toss all the ingredients together. Scallops require very little salt, so don't be too heavy handed with the seasoning. Let it marinate in the fridge for 20- 30 minutes.
- On a hot grill, cook scallops till they turn opaque. Scallops should be very slightly undercooked.
- Devour!

This week's PPN # 32: It's been a while since I participated in Ruth's Presto Pasta Night, so thankfully I remembered to take photos of this meal. Ruth, I hope you enjoyed this post :-)


Margot at Coffee & Vanilla said...

I have never tried scallops in my life, till now I wasn't even sure how exactly they look like. Thank you for sharing recipe and pictures. Now I want to try them, those that look more orange! :)

katiez said...

I freeze pistou rather than pesto...
I was really ready for cooler weather and winter cooking - until you showed me this wonderful pasta with asparagus... Now I want spring back!

KJ said...

Hi Nora, thanks for a really interesting post. French is the most famous of cuisines, but there are still so many dishes I have never heard of. Pistou being one of them.

I love asparagus. I always look forward to this time of year. Your pasta dish sounds delicious. Although I would have to forgo the scallops though. We are not friends.

Lydia said...

I freeze both pistou and pesto, in small plastic containers about the size of jam jars. Then I write on the top what's inside: walnut or pine nut pesto, with or without cheese, or pistou.

East Meets West Kitchen said...

This is beautiful, and I can't wait to Pistou now! :)

Truffle said...

I love the corals of the scallops paired with the green vegetables. Just gorgeous!

Susan said...

We can't generally get scallops with roe here, but can certainly make pistou. I've only had it stirred into soup, but your pasta idea is excellent, not only for flavor, but to cut back the calories by cutting the nuts out.

Aimée said...

Looks gorgeous! And I am making a big batch of pesto today to freeze, so I guess I 'pesto'!

veron said...

Very interesting. Never heard of Pistou but it sure looks good ! And grilled scallops - double yum!

Meghan said...

these pictures are wonderful!
thanks for the education on pistou as well!

valentinA said...

I'm in awe at the site of your dish! I'd love to have some of that!
And what an interesting post about Pesto & Pistou!

Valli said...

What an informative and interesting post along with some great recipes Nora!! They say that if you don't learn something each day then what's the point of living. I learned the difference between pesto and pistou which are both delicious..epecially in the pasta dish; also that scallops can be purchased with the roe on!!! I have never heard of this in my life. How interesting!!!

Kelly Mahoney said...

Those are some vibrant scallops -- all the ones I've seen are white.

Margaret said...

I'm pleased you have explained the difference between pistou and pesto.

Wendy said...

Very informative! I didn't know what pistou was at all. :)

The Cooking Ninja said...

mmm...delicious. I love scallop too. Wow! The asparagus are cheap indeed. I wish we are still in summer. It seems like it was not here yet and now it's autumn. :(

tigerfish said...

Now I know what is pistou. Thanks!

I absolutely like this dish, and especially with those scallops. I don't see scallops with roe, often in the US. I'm missing much.

Nora B. said...

Margot – I’m glad that I helped shed some light on scallops for you. If you can’t find fresh scallops, don’t be afraid to try frozen raw ones. Just check which country it comes from. Even frozen scallops tastes good because they freeze well and does not lose much flavour when defrosted.

Katie – I’m sorry, that’s all my fault. Unfortunately, I will continue my onslaught of spring (and soon) summer dishes…. But when the heat gets too much, I will be envying your cooler weather ;-)

KJ – Thank you. I don’t think that this dish needed scallops, so you are not missing much. I saw some purple asparagus, so I would like to try them next.

Lydia – labeling is a great idea. I’ve had to guess a few things because my partner doesn’t understand the importance of that! I usually freeze them in ice-cub trays because I usually cook smaller portions and I found it easier to defrost them this way. Also, I don’t have enough basil to be able to freeze large amounts. Fresh basil gets eaten quickly at our place :-)

East Meets West Kitchen – Great! Enjoy the pistou.

Truffle – Thanks. I was so happy eating this. We ate it at our veranda because it was such a warm & gorgeous weekend.

Susan – That’s a good point about calories. I would like to have pistou in soup again. It adds a wonderful layer of flavour to regular soup.

Aimée – Thank you. Have fun with pesto!

Veron – Thanks. I’m glad that you enjoyed the post.

Meghan – Thank you. I’m glad that I could share this information.

valentine – Thanks! I knew that I had to share the story about pesto & pistou when I came across it.

Valli – Thank you – I’m glad that you learnt as much as I did. Once I discovered scallops with roe, I couldn’t have it any other way. :-)

Kelly Mahoney – They are so colourful, aren’t they?

Margaret – Whenever I come across something new, I MUST find out more about it. I am a curious cat! ;-)

Wendy – Thanks! Now we both know what pistou is all about :-)

The Cooking Ninja – Yes, and I can’t wait to try the more unique asparagus such as purple and white ones. I’m sorry that I am making you long for spring, but Autumn can be such a beautiful season.

tigerfish –I can’t have scallops any other way except with roe on now that I know they exist.

Anh said...

Interesting post! And funny how people have different palate when it comes to scallop. I normally took the roe off since it has different cooking time with the white part. :)

Rosa said...

I definitely pistou, being in the south of France! I did a post on traditional pâtes au pistou a while back - here in Nice we usually toss the pistou with fresh green tagliatelle, or make soupe au pistou.

Toni said...

I must confess I had never heard of pistou. But after reading this post, I want to try it. I love the idea of using it with pasta and scallops. We don't get them with the roe, but that seems like a small difference to me. Thanks for the great idea!

Big Boys Oven said...

So lovely and beautifully done! I just bought two tub of fresh pesto sauce wth sundried tomato..... now I know that i caqn freeze them,

Lovely n wonderful!

Eva said...

Looks wonderful as usual, Nora! I hope that I'll have more time next week to cook something really nice and not just gnocchi with tomato sauce, spaghetti with tomatoe sauce...

winedeb said...

Ah Nora, your recipe sounds wonderful. I make a similar pasta dish and add peas to mine. The sweetness of the peas really enhances the pesto. But yours even looks more awesome witht he scallops addition!
Thanks for all the great tips you have in your post! I really like the idea of freezing the pistou and adding the cheese and nuts later!
Stay safe and clear of those fires!

Nora B. said...

Anh - Thanks! You can give me all your roe because I think that's teh best part ;-)

Rosa - I'll have to check out your post on traditional pâtes au pistou.

Toni - I chose to use pistou rather than pesto with the scallops because I prefer not to use cheese with seafood, so pistou seemed like a good pairing. Yes, I don't think it matters whether or not there is roe. I just love roe, any kind of roe :-)

Big Boys Oven - Thanks! Maybe next time you might want to try making your own pesto. It really tastes different than store bought ones, plus you can adjust the ingredients to your liking.

Eva - Thanks, dear! I found that despite my business, I was able to eat well this week because I did a big grocery shopping, stocked up on lots of veggies, etc. So that's why I had things on hand to cook with, plus Quikong helped with the grilling (his job!).

Deb - Peas would be a wonderful addition. The fires are a big worry, thanks for your concern. Although I'm not near any areas that are at risk of fires, I worry for the many Australians who lose their homes through bushfires.

Belinda said...

Hi Nora! You know, I'd never heard of pistou before, but from the sounds of the basic composition of it, I believe I would prefer it to pesto! Thanks for sharing the information. :-) And what a great looking recipe with those scallops!

Kate said...

well i'm learning quite a few things every time i visit your blog :). Now thanks to u i know what pistou is and would still prefer the pesto over ....love my cheese n nuts :p

Everything4sweets said...

yumm, I can eat your picture look so delicious :)

Stephen said...

Hey Nora. Great looking pasta dish. Those scallops look amazing. It's a bit harder to get scallops with the roe here. I should definitely make some pistou for my freezer.

Kelly-Jane said...

Fantastic dish :) and great read, I haven't made pistou for ages...

Cynthia said...

This is one of the reasons I like blogging, you learn someting everyday.

Nora B. said...

Belinda - Thanks! I think I like both, but for different things. I'm not giving up pesto anytime soon ;-)

Kate - I learn something new at your blog too. This exchange of knowledge is great!

Everything4sweets - Thanks. I wish I made more pistou because I enjoyed the meal so much.

Stephen - Thank you. Pistou would be a great sauce to have handy in the freezer. i would do that myself except my basil plant is now dead :-(

Kelly-Jane - Thank you. Maybe it's time to re-visit pistou? ;-)

Cynthia - I agree. Blogging expands my mind so much and also feeds my curiosity.

Ruth Daniels said...

I did enjoy the post and love the look of the dish. As for pesto or pistou....my very favorite thing!

I must say I've never seen scallops that look like yours. Very cool!

Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

Paola said...

Yes,I've heard that pistou and pesto are similar. I've been meaning to try soupe au pistou. :) Your food looks fantastic as always.


Margot at Coffee & Vanilla said...

Nora, thank you for your comment about bread and freezing it!

I'm hosting two events this month and I would love you to join:
Vegetarian Awareness Month and Inspiring Food Photography.

Greetings, Margot

Margot at Coffee & Vanilla said...

Congratulations to you too!
It was sooo hard to select only 7 people. I did not choose you only because you got this award already! :)

Have a good night! Margot

Nora B. said...

Ruth - Glad that you enjoyed it. :-)

Paola - Thank you! I would like to try making soupe au pistou too. But this week has been too warm for soup.

Margot - Glad I could help. And yes, I will submit something to the vegetarian awareness month event. I have many photos of vegetarian food but they didn't come out as good as I hoped, so I will keep trying and hopefully I will write about it soon.

Susan said...

Hi Nora! Thanks for the clear and helpful explanation between pistou and pesto (that is too much fun to say, really). And thanks for mention--the oil works like a charm every time! Asparagus for $1 a pound?! I'm tempted to fly to Australia to get some, but that wouldn't make much economic sense now, would it?;)

Shaun said...

Nora B - I'm a bit of a trollop in this department, for I love both pesto and pistou. I like your application of pistou to a pasta dish. I have not caught the asparagus bug...I have horrible memories of canned asparagus that I cannot put aside whenever I see them. That memory occludes any rationalisation, especially the fact that I'm sure they are lovely when fresh. Like you, I am also looking forward to working full-time again. I can't wait for 2008 to roll around.

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

This sounds and looks superb! My eldest would love you forever if you served him this.

kevin said...

Hez thanks for the pesto-pistou definitions - all the other info I managed to find involved parmesan, which is common, but not traditionally correct.

Just wanted to let you know that pine nuts aren't nuts as such, they're actually seeds, so they shouldn't cause any problems for those unfortunate to have a nut allergy (unless their condition encompasses more than one food grouping). A colleague I used to work with, who had a severe nut allergy, used to regularly eat pesto-dressed foods with no ill effects.

Sea said...

Very beautiful scallops! I love the variation in color- I've only had white ones, but I've seen firsthand the variety in both flavor and size in scallops--- i had some of the best scallops (raw) in my life in Japan.

Now I want seafood and pistou!