Thursday, April 17, 2008

Challenge 100: Oregano Pesto, or how to make the best prawns ever

This post has been burning a hole in my pocket for two whole weeks now. It was one of those meals that I wanted to post about as I was eating it, because I just couldn't believe how good it was. There I was sitting alone on the couch, saying “Oh my god, this is the best meal I've ever made” and no one was there to listen. Or take a bite and agree with me.

I can't take all the credit for its invention though. I was having one of my let‘s see what I can pull together from the fridge/cupboard/freezer moments, while talking to my brilliant sister. Pulling some fresh oregano out of the fridge, I asked her, “If you were making pesto with oregano, what would you put in it?” After a short discussion of nut-herb pairings (I only had pecans on hand, so that decision was easy) she said, “mexican spices – corriander, cumin, even some cinnamon!” Yes! So that's what I did. And it was freakin' amazing.

Oregano pesto
2 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 dried chile
1 tbsp whole cumin seeds
1 tbsp whole corriander seeds
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup fresh oregano leaves
1/4 tsp salt
olive oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
Toast the whole spices in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant.

Throw everything (except the olive oil) together in the mortar and pestle, and mash it around until everything is well mixed and in smallish pieces. Drizzle in olive oil and continue to mix until it's the texture you like – I wanted it just mixed enough to coat prawns nicely, but still with some chunks for texture. The mortar and pestle is great for giving you control over the texture, but if you don't have one, a blender or food processor would work of course.

When I first tasted the pesto, it was a bit bitter, so that's where the brown sugar came in.

After making the pesto, I tossed the prawns with it until coated...

And then grilled them for a few minutes on each side. I have a Paderno grill pan that sits over two burners on the stove, and I absolutely love it. It's so easy and perfect for achieving that yummy grilled flavour sans patio or backyard. Aren't they beautiful?

So, you might have noticed that the pesto was missing cheese. The cheese wasn't really absent, it just found its way into the salad dressing instead. I wanted to serve the prawns atop greens, with feta, but wanted to do something different than my usual homemade salad dressing (some variation on a vinaigrette). I thought maybe a creamy feta dressing would meld everything together better and go well with the vaguely mexican flavour of the prawns. I threw the feta in the blender with shallots, white wine vinegar, a little honey, and water to thin it. It was great – creamy, but light and tangy. A perfect counterpoint to the spicy, complex taste of the pesto prawns.

Someday soon I'll try this dressing again and come up with a proper recipe for it. For now, experiment away! I'm telling ya, experimenting in the kitchen is so worth it. Look at the rewards! I probably would never have thought up this meal if it wasn't for this combination of ingredients showing up in my almost-bare kitchen at the same time, on a night when I was open to any and all possibilities. And it was so unbelievably good. Next time I make it, I'll be sure to repeat my drink pairing from that night as well – pomegranate juice and el jimador tequila. Even if you're eating alone on the couch, that one's sure to make you happy, I think.


Laura said...

Everything about this concoction sounds delicious. Hooray for the mortar and pestle! Good to know it can come in handy in a variety of situations.

I particularly like the sound of the pecans (do these pecans have any connection to the ones you used in the blue-cheese burgers?), cinnamon, and creamy-but-light feta dressing. Oh, and the honey. And the prawns! Okay, it all sounds good. Your grill pan sounds fantastic - especially the two-burner system.

Anonymous said...

Hi Meg,
This is another "From my Fridge" recipe. Get going on it!!!
Pecans are so good and an unguilty pleasure as they are full of B vitamins.
Think you all are better cooks than the current crop on Hell's Kitchen, new series now running.

Jan&Andrew said...

Test comment

Leeeeesha said...

Meg, those prawns look delicious. But are they actually better than the tried-and-true garlic prawns of Donna Hay fame? I can't imagine anything tastier than those prawns . . .

I so want a grill pan! I've been dreaming about one for ages. Was it a costly purchase?

Meg said...

Well, Donna's are the classic, and I couldn't live without them. But yes, I actually think these are better! We could do a test though if you want... that would be yummy.

Yes Laura, I think these might have been from the same batch of pecans. I think they're pretty much good in everything. Glad to hear they're healthy Granny!

Alisha, the grill pan was a gift from my Granny, but you should definitely look into getting one. I use it for so many different things - burgers, eggs and bacon, steak, mushrooms and onions, skewers... and Darryl even used it for those potstickers last night, which were tasty.

Leeeeesha said...

A grill pan it is. That shall be my next kitchen purchase.

Mmm, potstickers . . .

(I'm having fond memories)

claire said...

Meg, we hear you! My blog-mate c-licious and I have just made this meal together and we can't get over the feeling of bliss that has washed over us like a gentle feta cream dressing!

Ha! Seriously, it was amazing and you're a genius. We tried some variations as follows: halibut instead of shrimp, pine nuts instead of pecans, white balsamic instead white wine vinegar, scallions instead of shallots, and milk instead of water.

It was so great. I'm going to eat it all week.

C-licious claims she'll crave the dressing even when in gourmet restaurants feasting on shi-shi sauces.