notes on processing pistachio pesto

my kitchen is newly home to a food processor and my life is now an ongoing episode of will it blend! i have never been happier. i do not know if i can say the same for my apartment neighbors. i'm partly terrified by my food processor because i'm exceptionally accident prone. but, thanks to my newfound ability to make nutella whenever i want, i am filled with bravery. 

in the past, i'd relied on a blender to make soups and hummus and smoothies, etc. etc. but now i feel like a whole new world of recipes is open to me. case-in-point: me circa december 24, 2016 would've made this salad with roughly chopped mint leaves and whole pistachios for some crunch. me circa january 2, 2016 is whirring away on my food processor asking "will it blend?!?" as i enthusiastically toss in mint and pistachios. my salad game got an upgrade.

my first food processor dish was pesto - plain and simple basil, parmesan, olive oil, pine nuts and garlic. this prompted my dad to ask if pesto always referred to this specific set of ingredients, or is it more like the general label of "curry" which could refer to a wide range of dishes. an internet search tells me pesto is customarily those five essential ingredients, though there are regional variations. we can consider this pistachio and mint one a variation, and quite a delicious one at that.

we were eating lamb at the time, so he mused that mint "pesto" could've worked well as a topping. as someone who is only a *little* off-put by lime green mint jelly often served with lamb, i was intrigued by the idea. fast-forward a week and we have a verdict: pistachio "pesto" is indeed a very good thing to have on hand for lamb + more. 

in this case, the pistachio and mint pesto was the perfect flavor bomb in a colorful quinoa salad. it's swirled into a bed of quinoa, plump dried apricots and crunchy pomegranate arils. the colors alone are lovely, but the flavor is unbelievable. it's a perfect accompaniment to lemon-roasted salmon or chicken.  

i'd love to hear about any other "pesto" variations you've tried before or if you have ideas for what else this would pair well with. now that i know pistachio and mint go so well together, i feel like my next art project could be a "choose your own adventure" map of herbs, nuts and cheeses that could make an a+ pesto. until then, i have a feeling this new kitchen gadget o' mine will keep me plenty entertained.

quinoa salad with pistachio mint pesto, pomegranate and apricots

serves 4
what you'll need:

1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup yellow onion, finely diced
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher salt, plus a pinch extra for quinoa
1 cup mint leaves
1/3 cup shelled pistachios
12 dried apricots, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup of pomegranate arils (about 1/2 cup)
1 tsp crushed garlic
juice of half 1 lemon

what you'll do:

for the quinoa salad:

  1. in a small saucepan, heat 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil over medium heat for a 1-2 minutes. saute diced onion for 6-7 minutes. add stock, quinoa and a pinch of salt. simmer until all liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. once all liquid is absorbed (about 15-18 minutes), remove from heat and set aside to chill in medium bowl.
  2. once chilled, mix in diced apricots and pomegranate arils. place in fridge while you make your pesto. 

for the pistachio and mint pesto:

  1. in a food processor, pulse pistachios for a total of 30 seconds, or until finely chopped.
  2. add in mint leaves, garlic, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 tsp kosher salt and lemon juice. blend to combine.
  3. mix thoroughly into quinoa salad and squeeze last bit of lemon over top.