Lemon Roasted Broccoli with Ricotta Walnut Pesto
have you tried bashing it with a rock?
things you’ll need: a lemon, broccoli, olive oil, rice or pasta, walnuts, ricotta, the zest from that lemon, garlic/shallot, parmesan, more olive oil, herbs (oregano and/or whatever), salt and pepper.
incidentally vegetarian, sub rice or GF noodles for gluten-free, for vegan you should make this Walnut Ricotta and then tell us about it!
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You have been bashing away at something for a long time. It doesn’t always seem worth it. You know there is a David in that marble somewhere but your arms are tired and you keep hitting your thumb. Whether it’s a new endeavor or the same rock you’ve been bashing for decades, it’s hard to keep perspective.
Since the Dawn of Time, people have been bashing stuff with rocks. Without the desire to bash rocks together, we never would have made tools, weapons, or fire. Smashing, bashing, and grinding are as natural as they are satisfying. It’s not just a violent impulse born of rage and frustration. There is determination and curiosity somewhere in there too.
We grind and grind and grind our rocks together until something changes, believing that something will come of it, even though you have no idea how long it will take or what it will look like in the end.
Fortunately, with pesto, you know what you are going to get. Pesto gets its name from the Italian word verb “pestâ” which is “to pound” or “to crush”. It’s an active word, a reminder that you have to get your hands involved. Although this isn’t your traditional pesto, it honors the spirit of bashing stuff repeatedly and satisfies your primitive need to crush.
Toast walnuts in the oven at 350 for 8-10 minutes (anxiously checking to keep them from burning).
Zest a lemon or two and set aside.
Cut up a few heads of broccoli. Toss the crowns with salt, pepper, oil, and the juice you crush from the zested lemon(s) with your bare fists. Roast (400-425) until browned to your liking while you cook rice or pasta and start really crushing out this meal.
Once the walnuts are cool enough to handle, lay them on a flat surface and gently crush them with the palm of your hand or the flat bottom of a cast-iron pan. You can put them in a bag and beat them with a rolling pin. You can chop them or smash them with the flat side of your knife. Coarsely grind them with a machine or use a mortar and pestle like they did in the stone age (peak era for bashing stuff with rocks). Lean your weight into whatever kind of crushing you choose. Listen for the satisfying pops, like your knuckles releasing. With the corporal pleasure only derived from smashing, set the nuts aside.
Mix equal parts ricotta and crushed nuts with the reserved lemon zest. Add fresh garlic and or shallot, herbs, and some grated parmesan. Incorporate a few Tablespoons of olive oil. Loosen the sauce with drained pasta water or a little hot water from a kettle. Salt and pepper to taste.
Toss your rice or pasta with sauce and charred broccoli.
You often wait for a long time to reap the rewards of your labor. You keep bashing away, knowing that the rewards will come. Despite the bloody knuckles and carpal tunnel, it’s taking shape. When you lose perspective, let your primal heart remind you to keep going. A masterpiece will emerge from all that rubble.
If you like making sauce from cheese as much as I do, here are a few other ideas:
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