Nothing prepared me for this. Not the fact that dsd had already made this once, and raved about it convincingly. Not even the fact that she graciously gave me some leftovers, which, when I ate them two days later, were delicious. No, I admit I was unprepared. I admit I thought of olives as lovely but limited — fantastic with the right cheese, or on their own, or even in a loaf, but nothing more, right? …Wrong. This pesto is easy and remarkably creamy and delicious. (Oh, and also, I had it with my first successful loaf of bread; that helps, too.)
Our reference recipe came from 101 Cookbooks. dsd had made it with gnocchi before, but I just made it over some good orecchiette. For the pesto, I began by pitting lots of olives. dsd prefers these fresh green olives for their bright flavor, but they do come with pits, ones that have grown quite attached to their olives. The pitting was tougher than I expected at first, but within a few minutes I got the hang of the knife-smash olive pitting trick: place an olive on a cutting board, place your knife on top of it (knife’s side touching the olive), and sharply hit the knife into the olive. Nine times out of ten, the pit mostly breaks free. It also helps to wipe your knife regularly — it gets really slippery! But in the end, you get some lovely chunks of olive meat on your cutting board. You can marvel at them for a minute or two, though soon they’ll be puréed.
As you’re finishing up with the olives, you can heat 1 tbsp olive oil in your skillet over medium high heat, and toss in 3 cloves garlic and 1 large yellow onion, both chopped. Once these are softened (a few minutes), you’re almost done. Add about 3/4 cup vegetable broth (I used a Better than Bouillon mix, as usual) and 1/3 cup heavy cream, and bring back to a simmer. Remove from heat, add the olives, let cool a little, then hand-blend the sauce into a nice pesto. Add some lemon if you’d like, toss with your pasta, and enjoy! This pesto was less thick than the last time dsd made it, but both were good — just keep in mind that you can adjust the amount of liquid depending on what you’re in the mood for (and the thicker pesto is maybe a little less camera shy, too).
As I mentioned, I also had my first bread success alongside this recipe. I wanted to make bread, but didn’t have much time, so I took Bittman’s fastest bread recipe, and hurried it up even more. I started with 14 oz all-purpose flour, 2 tsp yeast, and 1 tsp salt, and mixed those together. I then added 1 cup warm water, and mixed it in; then I added 1/4 cup olive oil and mixed that in.
I shaped the dough into a baguette-like long loaf, wrapped it in parchment paper, and let it sit on the part of the stove that gets hot when the oven’s on. (I also started preheating the oven to 425 °F.) About half an hour later, I brushed the loaf with water, and slid it onto our baking stone. This was also the first time I had a spray bottle around, so in addition to brushing the loaf with water, I also sprayed a bunch of water into the oven — it was fun. After 15 minutes of baking, I turned the heat down to 350 °F, and baked another 30 minutes or so. At that point, it was definitely done! The crust turned out firm but not “crusty.” The crumb wasn’t fantastic, but it was certainly edible — more so than my previous attempts. And it was great for picking up every last drop of olive pesto!