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Top Pick Of The Week

July 29, 2008

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Pestos With Panache

These four innovative flavors of pesto will add panache to everything from eggs to sandwiches to rice, fish and meat. From the top: Succulent Strawberry, Pumpkin Chipotle, Bangin’ Blueberry and Prosciutto & Smoked Almond. Photography by Dhanraj Emanuel.

WHAT IT IS: Tins of fresh-frozen gourmet pesto sauce in innovative flavors.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Where else can one find pesto in flavors like Bangin’ Blueberry, Prosciutto & Smoked Almond, Pumpkin Chipotle and Succulent Strawberry? These are savory, not sweet, pestos.
WHY WE LOVE IT: These pestos do just about everything except make dessert. One dab transforms a sandwich or vegetable, makes sizzling bruschetta, creates an instant hors d’oeuvre, is a terrific condiment with eggs, fish, meat and poultry.
WHERE TO BUY IT: PestosWithPanache.com.
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Pestos With Panache:
Instant Dazzle

CAPSULE REPORT: The classic pesto alla genovese, a popular pasta sauce and condiment, is made from basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts and Parmesan and pecorino cheeses. Creative cooks have substituted arugula, spinach and other greens or herbs for the basil, ditched the greens for bases of olives, red bell peppers, shiitakes and sundried tomatoes, switched out the pine nuts for almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts, and sweetened the proposition with honey and maple syrup.

Now an artisan in Brooklyn has created Pestos With Panache by adding fruit and, in a new Italian spin, prosciutto. Her goal: to liberate pesto from its traditional role as a pasta sauce, and to create exciting possibilities for every course from hors d’oeuvres to salads, sides and mains. Flavors such as Bangin’ Blueberry, Prosciutto & Smoked Almond, Pumpkin Chipotle and Succulent Strawberry provide a perky palette from which to paint. These are savory, not sweet, pestos; the profile of the line is nicely spicy. The fruits add complexity of flavor and pop on the finish, rather than a fruity sweetness.

Just as exciting, Pestos With Panache are fresh-frozen and take up very little space in the freezer. Whenever you need to dazzle up your dinner or create an impressive, impromptu cocktail snack, panache is just a reach away (the tins defrost at room temperature in 20 to 30 minutes).

Read about the different ways we played with panache in the full review below, and stock up on these little wonders. You should try them all. And yes, you can toss them with pasta...but for a newer approach to Italian dining, use them to make bruschetta instead of serving garlic bread.

     
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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Pestos With Panache: Instant Dazzle

INDEX OF REVIEW

MORE TO DISCOVER

Introduction

Pesto is a great invention. Take fresh basil, some good olive oil, Parmigiano-Reggiano and/or pecorino cheese and some of the local pine nuts (local to Liguria, where the classic pesto alla genovese was born). Grind them together in a mortar and pestle (from which the sauce gets its name)*, and presto: pesto!

*Let us assure you, no pesto tastes better than that which is handmade in a mortar and pestle. Make a batch in your food processor and a portion “the old-fashioned way” and taste the difference!

We tasted more than 100 classic and nouvelle pestos last year in our Best Pesto Sauce review. Delicious as those pestos are, Pestos With Panache deserves its own review—and a Top Pick Of The Week at that—because, as founder Lauren Stewart intended, they liberate pesto far beyond its traditional role as a sauce for pasta.

We’ve been enjoying these pestos with every meal except dessert. While we’ve had them with a few pastas, we have been liberated, as you’ll see below. We’ve pesto’d and panache-d everything from breakfast eggs to lunch sandwiches to soup, salad, shrimp cocktail, steak, chops and fish.

Pasta With Pesto Sauce
Pasta and pesto: made for each other. Photo by Shyman | IST.

Pesto Sauce Flavors

All of the pestos have basil, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese and pine nuts like their Ligurian progenitor, and some flavors have basil leaf. In addition, there’s a fair bit of spice—pumpkin pie spice is a common denominator along with black pepper. Yet each is distinctly different.

Strawberry Pesto Sauce
Succulent Strawberry (foreground) and Prosciutto & Smoked Almond pesto sauces.

Bangin’ Blueberry Pesto

Blueberry sweetness and pumpkin pie spices linger amid the heat and garlic. Don’t let the words “sweet blueberry” and “pumpkin pie spices” imply anything other than complex layering of flavors among the black pepper, crushed red pepper, garlic and lemon peel. All of the pestos are savory, not sweet.

Prosciutto & Smoked Almond Pesto

This flavor, unusual though it may sound as a pesto, was a crowd pleaser.You’d expect something with prosciutto and smoked almonds to be salty, but it isn’t; and the almonds provide some crunch.

Pumpkin Chipotle Pesto

The debut flavor of the line offers wonderful pumpkin flavors that seem like comfort food...until the chipotle chimes in. The pumpkin purée and basil blend is nicely spiced with adobo sauce, which contains the chipotle.

Succulent Strawberry Pesto

The strawberry pepperiness (from crushed red pepper) offers some sweet fruit flavor, but those who like cheese will get lots of it here.

 

Serving Suggestions

This line is totally mix-and-match. No one flavor pairs better with any food than any other—and perhaps that’s the fun of it. There are recipes on the company’s website that further illustrate how much fun you can have with these pestos.

Breakfast & Brunch

  • Bread. Bake some pesto into scones.
  • Condiment. The pestos make a great condiment for eggs of any style.
  • Omelet filling. Mix them with ricotta to make an omelet or crêpe filling.

Lunch

  • Bread Spead. A most delicious alternative to mustard or chutney. Use straight or mix with mayonnaise.
  • Salad. Mix pesto with mayonnaise to make a better chicken, egg or tuna salad. Add a dab to the plate of a salade composée.
  • Salad Dressing. Whisk a spoonful with olive oil and lemon or lime juice to make a spicy vinaigrette.

 

Hors d'Oeuvre

If you don’t own a set of these spoons to pass on an hors d’oeuvres tray, you can serve a few cherry tomatoes or small boiled potatoes with pesto on a plate, as a first course. Photo by Joan Vincent | IST.

Appetizers

  • Bruschetta. Toast Italian bread and spread with a pesto; serve it plain or add a topping.
  • Canapés. Spread pesto on a round of bread or a cracker and top with just about anything: a piece of cheese, meat, poultry, seafood, vegetable. For example, we found attractive (and delicious) black sesame rice crackers at Whole Foods Markets, added some Succulent Strawberry Pesto and topped it with a shrimp, and topped pink rice crackers with Bangin’ Blueberry Pesto and a raw scallop. To join them, we spread toast rounds with Prosciutto & Smoked Almond pesto and top it with a whole smoked almond.
  • Dips. Dilute with olive oil or stir into plain yogurt or sour cream.


Dinner

  • Condiment. Serve with crab cakes, fish, meat or vegetables. Mix with rice or try pesto potatoes.
  • Pasta. Toss with pasta—you may want to add some extra olive oil since the pestos are pretty solid.
  • Soup. Make a soup more flavorful by adding a spoonful of pesto in the center, right before serving.

Pestos With Panache work straight from the tin to add vivid flavor and visual interest to your plates. One tip: The tins, coming from the freezer or refrigerator, are covered with beads of moisture and it can be a challenge to get a grip to separate the halves. If you don’t have a rubber jar gripper, use a wide elastic band.

— Karen Hochman

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to anyone who wants a quick and easy way to make any meal more exciting.

Pestos With Panache
Bangin’ Blueberry, Prosciutto & Smoked Almond, Pumpkin Chipotle and Succulent Strawberry

Prices are mix-and-match and include shipping
and handling. Buy some for gifts!

  • 4-Pack
    $52.00
  • 6-Pack
    $72.00
  • 8-Pack
    $88.00
  • 12-Pack
    $120.00

Purchase online* at PestosWithPanache.com

*Prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. THE NIBBLE does not sell products; these items are offered by a third party with whom we have no relationship. This link to purchase is provided as a reader convenience.

Pestos With Panache
The gaily-colored tins make a nice gift presentation.



Check Out These Other Top Pick Of The Week” Sauces:

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