I love our neighbourhood for a number of reasons. One, it's within walking distance of downtown, and a growing farmer's market. Two, it's close to bike paths that run for kilometers along a canal and a river, and in late April/early May, these pathways are abloom with all colors of tulips. Three, we have one of the best playgrounds in the city within four blocks of our house (and that's not just my opinion). It too is surrounded by lots of green space. And finally, living here, I feel a real sense of community. I know more of my neighbours in this area than I ever did living for 17 years in the house I grew up in. Maybe having two little kids and a very social cat helps people get to know us - but still, there is something special about being able to walk down the street on a regular basis and stop and talk to one, two or more of your neighbours as you walk by. And I love the diversity of the people who live in the community too.
This weekend, our neighbour down the street (I'll call her the Flower Lady) hosted a block party and asked everyone to bring a little something. The Flower Lady is one of the special people in our lives who can completely engage the Bean in long discussions (long for a three year old)-usually about bugs and flowers. Her smiles are genuine and her laugh is infectious. The Bean likes her a lot and so do we.
Just that week, I'd had a wonderful sundried tomato pesto made with sunflower seeds at my sister's house. She served it as a spread with a baguette, some cream cheese and baby spinach. It was decadent,
earthy rich and meaty, and easy, so I knew I had to make it again for the party. I also chose a pesto made with cilantro, lime and sesame seeds to use up the last of our fresh cilantro. Both of these pestos come from Hollyhock Cooks: Food to Nourish Mind, Body and Soil, a book I can't say enough about since the recipes use fresh, easy to find ingredients, are easy to make and--most importantly--very very good.
Because it was light and refreshing, the cilantro pesto disappeared especially quickly. I'm sharing both recipes here so I can spread the gospel of Hollyhock goodness.
PS Although I served these as spreads with crackers, they are also suitable to mix in with pasta (soba noodles and sesame cilantro pesto anyone?). Since I didn't get a chance to make a pasta dish this week for dinner, I am going to cheat a little and make this my submission to Presto Pasta Nights. Hopefully Ruth, the gracious host and founder of PPN, won't mind.
Sundried Tomato Pesto with Sunflower Seeds
makes 4 cups
Note: the original recipe calls for walnuts in place of the seeds, but I was told by my sister that using sunflower seeds makes it nut-free. You can also use sundried tomatoes that are not oil-packed, but they need to be soaked for 20 minutes in water before using them.
1 240 mL jar (about 4 oz) of oil-packed sundried tomatoes
3/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp lemon zest
2 tsp crushed garlic (I used 2 medium sized cloves)
1 tsp black pepper
a dash of hot pepper sauce
3/4 cup water (if you soak your sun dried tomatoes, use that water)
1 1/2 cups of toasted sunflower seeds
Put all of the ingredients except for the seeds in a food processor or blender and process until it becomes a thick paste. Add the seeds and process until you get the texture you like. Thin the pesto with additional water if needed.
Cilantro Pesto with Sesame and Lime
makes 2 cups
(I omitted the 1/2 a seeded and minced jalapeno. The cookbook also includes a couple of variations, but I prefer the sesame seeds.
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup, packed fresh cilantro
2 tbsp minced ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic (I used 3 good sized cloves)
3/4 cup toasted and ground sesame seeds
juice of two limes
salt to taste
In a food processor, pulse the olive oil, cilantro, ginger, garlic until blended. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the sesame seeds, lime juice and salt. Serve immediately.