Not everyone knows this, but I staged at Bondir for a few months last Spring. “Staging” – a word I didn’t know until I started – basically means working for free at a restaurant. Chefs usually stage as a “try-out” for a position, or to simply get a little experience at a top-notch restaurant. As for me, I was trying to figure out whether or not I wanted to pursue a career as a restaurant chef. I ultimately decided it wasn’t for me, but I can’t even put into words how much I learned from Chef Bond and the whole team at Bondir.

Most of the work I did at Bondir was less than glamorous – peeling pounds and pounds of slimy knotweed comes to mind! However, working directly with Jason at such a small restaurant with a constantly changing menu was facinating, no matter what I was working on. I loved watching how he came up with recipes and ideas for the menu every night. Sometimes he would dictate a recipe off the top of his head for me to write down and start working on. This Vidalia Green Pesto was one of those recipes.

When Jason first told me this recipe, he handed me a bunch of vidalia spring onion greens and told me to grab a red jalapeno and a lemon from the walk-in.

I always had a notebook with me to write down my tasks for the day and any recipes he might have me jot down. When I initially wrote down this recipe, I thought the vidalia greens were scallions. Such an amateur!

Sidenote – I was always baffled as to how the other chefs kept their notebooks so clean. I think you can tell what kind of shape mine is in. (Don’t worry, that is not blood on my notebook. It’s probably blood orange, if I had to guess!)

Anyways, he told me what to do while rolling out fresh garganelli pasta, and we both tasted along the way for seasoning and consistency. Whenever he had time, he was great about giving me tips on how to taste for balance in a recipe. He had me make this pesto often, and every time I got a little better at it. I would add a little more acid, a little more salt, or a little more olive oil until it tasted right.

Now, I can’t say that this is his exact recipe. I probably didn’t do it justice without him giving it the final taste of approval! I also find it nearly impossible to find red jalapenos, so I substituted a red fresno chili.

Caveats aside, this vidalia green pesto is at least a tribute to Bondir and everything I learned there. It’s a simple but beautiful combination of fresh flavors that come together and taste like Spring on a plate. It is also incredibly versatile. Jason usually served it with whatever fish was on the menu that evening. I paired it with goat cheese on a crostini for one of our Easter appetizers.

Vidalia Green Pesto and Goat Cheese Crostini

For the Pesto:
1 red fresno or red jalapeno chili, seeded, deveined, and sliced
Juice and peel from 1 lemon (without the white pith)
Greens from 9 vidalia spring onions
Sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil

For the Crostini:
Baguette or ficelle, thinly sliced
Goat cheese
Flaky salt, such as Maldon

Add the chili, lemon peel, and sea salt to a food processor. Process until everything is very finely chopped. My mom’s food processor just didn’t want to chop that lemon rind, so I wound up transferring the pesto to her smaller, more powerful food processor later. I was really missing Bondir’s Robot Coupe! I actually can’t decide which I miss more – the Robot Coupe or the Vitamix.

Add the vidalia greens, lemon juice, and a small pour of olive oil. Process again.

I transferred to the smaller processor at this point. It barely fit, but it did the job. Keep adding olive oil until it looks like a pesto, or has the consistency you want.

The pesto kind of emulsified this time and I’m not sure what I did differently to make this happen. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, just unexpected.

When ready to serve the crostinis, bake the toasts in a 400 degree oven until lightly crisp. Spread a generous portion of goat cheese on each and top with the vidalia green pesto. Sprinkle with the flaky salt.

I can’t wait to get back to Bondir and see what delicious things he’s making with Spring vegetables this year!

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