One of my favorite things to do on the weekends is to head to the Hillcrest Farmer's Market. The Market is open every Sunday from 9am-2pm. Whenever I go I am sure to pick up all the usual produce one might get from the grocery store but much fresher and for much less! I also love the Farmer's Market for finding unusual fruits and vegetables that a store might not carry. This past weekend I found quite a treat! What I found was a beautiful bunch of Purple Amaranth.
Amaranth has approximately 60 different species with colors ranging from purple to red to gold! Although some may mistaken it for a weed, to others it is invalueable for it's use as a leaf vegetable, and even used ornamentally. It's flavor is very close to a spinich. The uses are many depending on the culture; in India it is added into preparation for certain dals, in China they use it in stir fry, in Vietnam and in the Caribbean it is used to make soup and in Greece it is boiled, served with olive oil, lemon and as a side to fried fish. These are all delicious ideas but I decided to make it a pesto! Check out my recipe below and serve this simple but beautiful (look at the color it turns your pasta!) dish as a change from your usual green basil pesto!
1 bunch of purple amaranth
2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1 garlic clove
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup basil infused or regular extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 pieces turkey bacon chopped
2 cups ziti/pasta with ribs to catch the sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Remove all the amaranth leaves from their stems and blanch your leaves for only about 30-40 seconds in boiling water and have a ice bath ready to drop the leaves into. This process of blanching and shocking the amaranth will help lock in it's beautiful color, and it turns the water bright purple! Save some of that water (a tsp or 2) for adding to the pesto. Be sure to squeeze as much water out of the amaranth as you can (like with spinich!) and add it to a food processor with your parsley, pine nuts, lemon juice, cumin, garlic clove and pulse for about 20 seconds, now continue processing while adding in the olive oil. If it still seems too solid now is the time to add the extra blanching water. Meanwhile boil the pasta and set aside and in a fairly large sautee pan on medium heat cook up your bacon pieces. Once the bacon has cooked, remove it from the pan for a minute and put in the pasta and pesto and toss lightly letting some of the bacon drippings flavor the pasta, add in the bacon again and grated parmesan. Add salt (remember bacon will add salt too!) and pepper to your liking and enjoy!
Wine pairing suggestion: Try a French Burgandy ! I liked 2007 Domaine Marius Delarche, Pernand-Vergelesses, Old Vine Reserve. The slight smoke and spice will be a great pairing with the bacon and cumin in the dish!