I'll admit it: The Chinese didn't invent pesto. The giveaways are the cheese and pine nuts, two indisputably Western ingredients that help make it delicious-and rich. My East-West version, which adds ginger, cilantro, and chile heat to the basic basil-garlic mix, is much lighter than the Italian original. It makes a temptingly spicy flavoring for pasta and much more. The pesto stays vibrant in color and flavor for at least a week; after that, it will darken but will still taste great for another week. Stir the sauce well before using it.
Makes about 3 1⁄2 cups
Lasts 2 weeks, refrigerated
2 jalapeño chiles, stemmed and seeded
8 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon sugar
1 heaping tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 cup roasted salted macadamia nuts or roasted salted peanuts
Zest of 2 lemons
2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed
1 cup fresh mint leaves, packed
1⁄2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, packed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a blender or food processor, combine the chiles, garlic, sugar, ginger, nuts, zest, and 1 cup of the oil and blend until smooth. Add the basil, mint, and cilantro and blend while slowly adding the remaining oil until a thick purée is formed. Season with salt and pepper. Store in a tightly covered jar and refrigerate.
For a great chip dip, mix equal parts of the pesto with softened cream cheese.
Use the pesto as a sandwich spread; it's particularly good with chicken salad or grilled portobello mushroom fillings.
Mix 1 part pesto with 2 parts chopped shrimp. Use as a filling for dumplings made with store-bought wonton skins. Deep-fry the dumplings until golden and serve as an hors d'oeuvre.