In the meantime, though, I’ve indulged in a bit of retail therapy. The expeditions have spanned food halls at two major department stores (Gallerie Lafayette and Le Bon
The oil has already enlivened a simple bowl of haricot verts and toasted walnuts, while the pan has enabled the most component omelette ever to grace my stovetop. In less time than it took to cook the pasta, the mortar and pestle beat the ingredients for a sage pesto into submission.
I first tried this pesto a few years ago, using my then-roommate’s enormous mortar and pestle. The taste was intense and almost spicy, though the memory is marred by the knowledge that I spoiled it by the (recommended!) addition of water. This time, I chose it over the more traditional basil variety simply because I had a surplus of walnuts in the freezer. Though perhaps less versatile, it could provide a tasty topping for roasted root vegetables. In a recent article for The Times , Gordon Ramsay also puts a dollop of a similar paste atop his vegetable soup.
1/3 cup (1 small handful) fresh parsley
3-4 tablespoons fresh sage leaves
1/2 garlic clove
large pinch salt
1 cup walnuts
ample 1/3 cup olive oil
the same quantity of freshly-grated Parmesan or Pecorino
Lightly toast the walnuts in a dry pan or warm oven until they begin to change colour, about 5 minutes. In a mortar and pestle or small food processor bowl, combine the herbs, garlic and salt, mixing until they form an even-textured paste. (In the mortar and pestle, the salt should be added first, to help "grip" the other ingredients.) Once the walnuts are slightly cooled, add them, in batches if necessary, to the herb paste, blending until the nuts have fully broken down. Add olive oil until the mixture is thick but flowing, then grate in the cheese and taste seasoning.