What’s a girl to do when the guy at the farmer’s market has a couple bunches of basil left that he practically wants to give to you (sometimes it pays to arrive late). Well, if you’re a girl in Hawai’i with a mac nut tree that just won’t quit, you rush home to make a batch of Mac Nut Pesto.
Here’s our quick un-recipe (measuring cups be damned):
- 2 bunches o’ basil
- 2 cloves garlic. (Heck, I’d add even more if it was just for me. What, I’m obsessed!)
- 20 mac nuts
- Organic Oils
So in a nut shell, the hardest part of this recipe is the nut shell.
If you don’t have a mac nut tree, it’s good to buy your nuts in the shell. They last longer and are less likely to be rancid. Order online from Monika’s Mac Nuts in Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawai’i – they send them to you ready to crack. But cracking takes some finesse – we’ll get to that in a bit.
If you have tree access, don’t pick the nuts directly off of it. Instead, wait ’til they fall in their soft green husk. And though it’s recommended that you harvest the nut within a day or two after it has fallen, we often don’t get to it ’til the nut is part way or completely out of the husk. Cons: Potential mold, heat respiration, creatures nibbling on your nuts. Pros: less work, the unused nuts becoming natural compost for the tree. On the side of the tree that gets more shade, the nuts are sometimes moldy, but otherwise they’re typically fine.
Once you have the nuts de-husked, you want them to dry out a bit inside the shell. That allows it to lose some moisture content and shrink; making space between the nut and the shell. After that it’s easier to crack and separate.
Typically I put them in a flat bowl and for a month keep them in the window sill that gets some afternoon sun (it’s difficult to get things to dry in high humidity, especially if you live in areas with less sun and wind exposure). You can also use a food dehydrator over the course of a few days.
This time though I grabbed them right off the ground and wanted to use them as soon as I could. Solution? Stick them in the oven at a very low temp for a few hours. The idea is to try to keep it as “raw” as possible and not heat the oils. Sure, it’s not enough time to really dry and shrink the nut much but it sure makes the shell easier to crack. And though you’ll still have to nudge the meat out, in this case, keeping it whole isn’t a priority anyway.
Though hammers work, I splurged on a $20 Australian Crack-A-Mac from Monika’s. Tip: Crack it on the little dot that appears on the shell.
Once you de-husk and de-shell it’s pretty simple: throw it all in the food processor.
It got a little ADD when it came to choosing the oil and I ended up including a splash of: Dr. Bronner’s* Coconut, Epicurean Organics Olive, Udos, and Nutiva’s* Hemp (sign up for Nutiva’s newsletters – they have amazing Tuesday sales).
Use whatever oil you have – even more Mac Nut – but you gotta have some olive oil for that Mediterranean flavor. Look for organic, cold pressing, extra virgin, and for the light sensitive oils always get them in a darker glass. Also because the mac nuts have a good amount of Omega 3, you’ll maintain a decent balance even if you are adding oils that are high in Omega 6.
Our mac nut pesto came out yummy – ate it on pasta, sprouted breads, crackers, added to more oil to make a salad dressing. Eventually got reconstructed into a cream cheese salmon spread for a few wayward poppyseed spelt bagels.
* support companies who don’t use GMOs and helped fight for GMO labeling!
Note: If you want to grow your own mac nuts, they do prefer a decent amount of rainfall. Check out this video.
Quick plug, the cute lavender / blue / green stoneware in two of the above photos is from MK Wares who makes the most beautiful pottery. Check them out.