Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Basil and Macadamia Nut Double Feature! or, Dinner AND Dessert

Today's post has been a long time in coming.  A year ago last week, I was in Berlin, Germany, on a stop of my first Grand Tour of Europe (I spent last St. Patrick's Day in Athens, Greece!).  My roommate was at the time studying in Berlin, so we hatched this awesome plan in which I would stop by through my traversing of the Old World and say hi.

Nollendorfplatz, our stop in Berlin

It was wonderful (and cold), and, while she was dragging me from one end of the city to the other, we managed to walk by this random Australian restaurant, where she had once eaten macadamia nut pesto.  We made plans to return to the restaurant to try this fascinating pesto creation, but my time in Berlin was just too short and we ended up getting side-tracked by this amazing thing called pesto gouda.  (P.S. If you're in Germany or the Netherlands and would like to mail me some pesto gouda, I will be forever in your debt! *hint hint*)  Anyways, at last, a few weeks ago, I got down to replicating macadamia nut pesto, and, the results, I have to say (and according to my roommate), were fantastic:

Because of the macadamia nuts, this is seriously the richest, smoothest, most buttery pesto that I have ever tasted.  Creamy.  That's the word for this pesto.  It was awesome.  My roommate and I slathered it on all sorts of pastas--gnocchi, spaghetti, penne--and gobbled it all down.  We might even try it with pizza at some point.  That could potentially be epic.

The pesto is actually quite different from the basil pesto that I normally make, which has more basil than pine nuts.  This pesto, as I was instructed by my roommate, has more macadamia nuts than basil, so you get just a hint of the light freshness of basil coming out over the rich creaminess of the macadamia nuts.  Add some really good parmegiano reggiano cheese, garlic, freshly ground black pepper, and salt, and voila! an excellent (and exceptionally fast) dinner.

Of course, being me and this being a dessert blog, I couldn't really stop there.  As I was gathering the ingredients for the macadamia nut pesto, it struck me: chocolate would also be amazingly good with the same combination of flavors.  Plus, I needed to do *something* to use up the big boxes of organic basil that I bought.  (The sales girl did ask me quizzically what I was doing with all that basil.)  So, I present to you, the Basil and Macadamia Nut Double Feature:

That's right.  I took the same ingredients from dinner (save the tomatoes) and ported them over to a dessert, a basil-macadamia nut dark chocolate tart, to be exact.  There's even olive oil and generous flecks of sea salt in that tart:

The combination of basil, macadamia nut, olive oil, sea salt, and dark chocolate came out beautifully.  The crust is made of macadamia nuts and home-dried basil--buttery, flaky, and fragrant.  I whisked olive oil into the dark chocolate ganache, giving it this incredible sheen and subtle fruitiness.  Topping it all off with liberal amounts of sea salt really made the chocolate pop when you took a bite.

The overall result is a delectable dessert that's rich yet light at the same time and not at all overly sweet or saccharine, making it a perfect post-dinner treat that doesn't leave you completely, belt-bustingly full.  One person who tried it couldn't stop congratulating me on it for a few days.  And, the slight green color of the crust adds an air of mystery to the tart (yet, it doesn't look unappetizingly like kryptonite).  I took the finished product to a department dinner, and it was a great conversation starter: "What is that?  Mint?  Avocado?  Apple? Leprechaun?"

So, what started out as a long-awaited fulfillment of a promise in Berlin turned into a wonderful experiment of using the same ingredients in both dinner and dessert and ended up with an awesomely delicious chocolate tart recipe!  But, that's not to say that I wouldn't want to go back to Berlin to try the actual restaurant... or for more pesto gouda, which is, incidentally, startlingly kermit-the-frog green.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day, all!

Read on for both savory and sweet recipes...

Macadamia Nut Pesto
makes ~2-3 cups

1 cup macadamia nuts, dry roasted and unsalted
1 large handful of fresh basil leaves
2-3 small cloves garlic
<1 oz. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, finely grated
1+ cups olive oil
juice of half a lemon
coarse sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a food processor, grind the macadamia nuts until finely ground.
2. Add the basil, garlic, and cheese and begin to process.
3. Gradually add the olive oil while the food processor is running until the desired consistency is reached, about one to one and a half cups of olive oil for a medium-thick pesto.
4. Add the juice of half a lemon and salt and pepper to taste and pulse to combine.

Serving suggestion: Boil your pasta of choice in well-salted water until al dente.  Then, lightly coat the pasta with pesto, tossing to combine.

Basil, Macadamia Nut, and Olive Oil Dark Chocolate Tart
makes 1 large 9" tart

for pastry crust:
handful of fresh basil
240 grams AP flour
65 grams macadamia nuts, dry roasted and unsalted
6 Tbspn butter, cold and cut into pieces
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
2-3 Tbspn water

1. Place the fresh basil on a paper towel in the microwave.  Heat on high for three minutes.  Remove the basil from the microwave and crush finely (it should do this easily with your hands).  You should end up with about 2 Tbspn of dried, crushed basil.
2. Combine the flour, macadamia nuts, and basil in a food processor and pulse until the macadamia nuts are completely ground.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients except the water and process until the butter is the size of small peas.  Add the water one tablespoon at a time and pulse just until a dough begins to form.
4. Remove the pastry dough from the food processor, form it into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap or parchment paper and chill for 30 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
6. Roll out the pastry crust.  Prick the bottom of the crust several times with a fork.  Then, line the pastry with parchment paper and weigh down with pie weights (or dry beans, which is what I use).
7. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until the pastry looks golden.
8. Remove from the oven and let cool.

for chocolate ganache filling:
12 oz. bittersweet or dark chocolate, finely chopped
10 oz. heavy cream
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
coarse sea salt

1. Place chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and set aside.
2. Heat the heavy cream on medium high, stirring and scraping the bottom constantly until it reaches a gentle simmer. Remove from heat.
3. Pour the hot cream onto the prepared chocolate. Let sit for 2-3 minutes.
4. Whisk until the chocolate is completely melted and evenly distributed.  Stir in the olive oil.
5. Pour into the prepared tart crust.  Once the ganache begins to set, about 15-20 minutes, sprinkle on the coarse sea salt.  Let set until completely cool, about 1-2 hours.  Serve at room temperature.



  1. Basil and chocolate - huh? I am glad it turned out so well and I probably am going to try it even though I am still in awe of basil and chocolate.

    Since, I discovered what a bit of sea salt can do to chocolate chip cookies, I am open to trying new ideas.

  2. @sweet and savory: you should most definitely try it! I know that the whole basil + chocolate thing sounds weird, but it's most definitely a combination that works.

  3. Great Duo of dishes. I love it when I run across a sweet story with universal appeal that ALSO relates to food. GREG

  4. Macadamia pleasure times two! I am dying to try this pesto idea. You're right -- with macadamias being so rich and oily all on their own, I can bet they make one indulgent tasting pesto.

  5. Wow that tart looks amazing and I can only imagine its flavor but it got me drooling!

  6. Wow the photos and combinations of flavors are amazing. Love the blog!

  7. I love hearing stories of successful recreations of dishes people taste outside of home. Congrats on the resounding success with the pesto as well as your truly inspired tart. Btw, I'm a huuuuge fan of pesto sauce on pizza. I've had one with shrimp that was just outta this world.

  8. @Xiaolu: thanks! Pesto IS soooo good on pizza. My favorite variation so far is pesto + sundried tomato + shredded chicken + mushrooms + mozarella. But, this shrimp one sounds intriguing! Was the shrimp boiled? fried? grilled? Putting it on my list of things to try...

  9. Wow the photos and combinations of flavors are amazing. Love the blog!

  10. Great Duo of dishes. I love it when I run across a sweet story with universal appeal that ALSO relates to food. GREG


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