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Top Pick Of The Week

November 11, 2008

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Poached Egg

Pesto can enliven almost every dish (except sweet desserts, but try them with cheese). Here, Le Grand’s herbalicious Garden Pesto turns the same old poached egg into a gourmet delight. Healthy eaters can enjoy the egg, pesto, microgreens and stewed plum tomatoes. Revelers can rest a pancake and some bacon underneath. Photo by Brett Mulcahy | IST.

WHAT IT IS: A line of pestos and similar-style sauces and condiments.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Made in small batches from very fresh ingredients, so they taste as if you made them at home.
WHY WE LOVE IT: The fab flavors, the thick consistency, the versatility.
WHERE TO BUY IT: At Whole Foods Markets nationwide and Zabars.com.
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Le Grand Pesto: A Grand Pesto Experience

CAPSULE REPORT: We know about pestos. For our review of the best pesto sauces, we dipped and sauced with hundreds of them, from the classic pesto alla Genovese* to scores of variations from A to Z (or at least to S, including shiitake mushroom, spinach, sundried tomato and sweet red pepper pestos).

*The classic recipe contains basil, olive oil, Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses, pine nuts, garlic and salt.

The good news is, no matter how much exciting food you’ve tasted in a specialty food category, there’s always more to discover. So we smacked our lips when we came across Le Grand Pesto, an all-natural line of artisan pesto sauces and tapenades made by a couple in Canada. Since then, we can’t imagine life without Le Grand Pesto Lemon Confit & Pumpkin Seed Aromatic Sauce—it may ensure our cult status among foodie friends who credit us with the discovery (try it with fish, seafood, pasta, vegetables and anything that lemon takes a shine to).

We’ve been snacking on spoonfuls of the five other flavors, in between using them as a condiment on everything from eggs to sandwiches to soups and salads. Just try enlivening that Caprese salad or cheese pizza with Spicy Olive & Sun-dried Tomato Tapenade. Squirt a spoonful of 4 Nut & Cheese Pesto into a bowl of tomato soup or onto pear slices. Try some Sun-dried Tomato Pesto on that sandwich instead of mayonnaise, or serve it as a spread with cocktails. You’re a hero without doing any actual cooking (but, then, being a top hunter-gatherer is as great a skill as being a good cook). The products are very thick—no oozing pools of oil, but vegetable paste with only as little oil as needed to bind the ingredients. You can spread them, or dilute with your own oil into sauces. All are made with the finest ingredients, no preservatives and no sugar or sweeteners of any kind.

If you love fresh, new tastes, want easy ways to make your everyday foods fly high and can’t wait to play with six new ready-to-cook-or-eat condiments/sauces/ingredients, read the full review below.

     
THE NIBBLE does not sell the foods we review
or receive fees from manufacturers for recommending them.

Our recommendations are based purely on our opinion, after tasting thousands of products each year, that they represent the best in their respective categories.

 

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Le Grand Pesto Sauces: A Grand Experience

INDEX OF REVIEW

Click on the black links to visit other pages.

MORE TO DISCOVER

Introduction

Here at THE NIBBLE, we love pesto.  We love it so much that, not too long ago, we dedicated an entire roundup† to it, tasting scores of brands and hundreds of flavors of pesto sauce in order to find the best ones.  

†A “roundup” is an article that “rounds up” products in any category, whether it’s pesto, strawberry jam, olive oil or peanut butter.

Since the publication of that article—and to our delight—we’ve found several more noteworthy pestos.  We keep adding to the original pesto review, but one of our most recent discoveries, from Quebec-based Maison Le Grand, deserved to be a Top Pick Of The Week.  The six varieties are incredibly fresh-tasting and vibrantly-colored, with flavors so perfectly balanced it’s as if they had been whipped up moments earlier in somebody’s kitchen. We can appreciate that, having spent our fair share of time whipping up batch after batch off fresh pesto at home.

As opposed to on-the-shelf pestos that are intended as sauces and contain a substantial amount of oil, these pestos are thick and paste-like, chock-full of their vegetable ingredients with a small amount of oil, and are squeezed from a pouch. You can add  oil to convert them into sauces, or use them as spreads, the base for dips, and in any number of ways which we’ll explore shortly.

Spicy Olive Tapenade

Easy squeeze pouches fit into any nook or cranny in the fridge. Photo by Daniela Cuevas | THE NIBBLE.

A small-batch production process is largely responsible for the products’ exceptional quality.  Proprietors Tatiana Bossy and her husband, Bernard Le Grand, make fresh pesto every week, working out of an old schoolhouse on the north shore of Montreal that they’ve gutted and converted into production space.  The recipes are Bernard’s creations. (He’s not a chef by trade, but boy, can he cook!) The two do everything themselves—they even grate the cheese by hand—and that means serious quality control.  If, for instance, one week’s batch of sun-dried tomatoes tastes slightly different from the next, they adjust the recipes accordingly. 

Unlike most pestos, these sauces don’t come in jars; instead, they’re packed in neat squeeze pouches with screw-off tops. This packaging helps extend the life of the product. For the spatially-challenged, they take up very little refrigerator space and in fact, adapt themselves to whatever nook or cranny that’s available.

The Difference Between Pesto, Tapenade & Sauce

All of the Le Grand products are made with vegetables (or fruits—tomatoes are a fruit) and vegetable oil. All are thick and chunky. So, what’s the difference? Historical origin.

Pesto

Pesto, the Italian word for pounded, is an uncooked sauce made with fresh basil or other vegetable or fruit, plus olive oil and other ingredients. The sauce originated in Genoa, Italy; pesto alla Genovese is made with basil, olive oil, pine nuts, Parmesan and/or Pecorino cheese and garlic, plus salt. There are many variations on the original recipe; some use herbs or greens instead of basil (arugula, cilantro, spinach, e.g.) or focus on other ingredients (pumpkin, sweet red pepper).

Tapenade

Tapenade is an olive-based spread, typically used as an hors d’œuvre, on crackers or bread. It can be used in recipes as well; for example, to stuff fish fillets. Olive pastes and spreads—chopped or ground olives mixed with olive oil—have existed in the Mediterranean region for thousands of years; olives were among the first domesticated crops. The “classic” recipe enjoyed today was invented less than 100 years ago by the chef of the Maison Dorée in Marseilles, who added anchovies and capers to a black olive spread. The word comes the from Provençal word for capers, tapéno. Some recipes add tuna as a variation.

And yes, there are olive pestos, that add olives to a traditional pesto—hold the tuna, capers and anchovies!

Sauce

Essentially, any liquid-based food that covers or coats another food. Every cuisine on earth has a myriad of sauces, so the recipes and ingredients are endless.

Continue To Page 2: Le Grand Pesto Varieties

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