As Caroline wrote on her blog earlier today, pesto's an easy way to use up an overload of CSA greens and it works just fine with mizuna. I've been having trouble finding a good use for the mizuna so I decided to punt with a pesto, but I didn't want to make it too easy on myself. As long as I was switching out the basil, I might as well throw in a few more switch-ups and see where I ended up.
I had a vague idea of making a Southwestern-style pesto so to the mizuna I added a handful of cilantro. And to the garlic I added a modestly hot pepper. The olive oil I kept the same. For the parmesan, I substituted an aged queso blanco and for the pine nuts I substituted corn nuts.
And, in a last minute decision, for the pasta, I substituted pulled pork.
The results left something to be desired, but, surprisingly, it wasn't my substitutions that caused the problem. It was the bitterness of the mizuna. Once I added a couple pinches of sugar and a drizzle of vinegar to balance against the bitterness, it was much improved. Now it tastes like a proper pesto with a bright fresh grassiness and slight tanginess. Without the bitterness prominent, a lot of the distinctive character beyond a generic green comes from the cheese and the corn nuts which give subtle hints of funk and toastiness respectively. And a lot of salt from both. All of this plays surprisingly well against the savoriness of the pork. This was just a lark, but I've stumbled upon something really quite tasty. I wonder why there isn't a tradition of pesto-based barbecue sauces. Maybe the smokiness of proper barbecue (as opposed to my crockpot pulled pork) throws the balance off? Or does such a thing exist; have any of you heard of it?