Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fusilli in Saffron-Chive "Cream" Sauce with Pistachio-Basil Pesto for Food 'n Flix: No Reservations

Where did the month of June go?!? I swear I just announced I was hosting Food 'n Flix this month and now I am sneaking in just a few days before the deadline with my dish inspired by the foodie chick-flick, No Reservations. A sweet little movie about Kate, a workaholic perfectionist chef whose life is turned upside down when her sister dies and Kate takes custody of her young niece, Zoe. Add to the mix, sexy, relaxed Nick, brought in under Kate's protests to handle the kitchen of the restaurant, and Kate's world spins out of the careful control she keeps it in.

In coming up with a dish, I wanted to throw a little of each character into whatever I came up with. Kate is known for her saffron cream sauce--Nick even begs her for the recipe. Zoe doesn't eat (Kate's fancy, restaurant dishes are a bit too much for her), until Nick tempts her with fresh basil and makes a bowl of simple spaghetti. So... in honor Kate, Zoe and Nick, we have a bowl of Fusilli in Saffron-Chive Sauce with Pistachio-Basil Pesto. Slightly sophisticated but still approachable and I think Zoe would like the curly fusilli noodles.

I wanted a healthier version of a saffron cream sauce and have had the recipe for Saffron-Chive Sauce in "Conscious Cuisine: A New Style of Cooking From the Kitchens of Chef Cary Neff," tagged to make for a while now. Instead of cream and butter, this vegan sauce uses a surprise ingredient--potatoes to thicken it. (Cool huh?!) I wanted something to compliment and enhance the creamy yellow saffron sauce so I came up with a simple garlicky, basil pesto with pistachio nuts.

Chef Cary Neff says, "Saffron is made from the stigmas of a beautiful purple crocus found in Spain and the Middle East. Each flower has only three stigmas, and each stigma is hand-picked, which makes saffron very expensive. Its pungent smell, bitter flavor, and yellow color have been used throughout the ages in magic, medicine, and cooking. This recipe creates all of the pleasures of a wonderful saffron cream sauce without the use of cream or butter. Pureed potatoes thicken the sauce and provide a creamy mouth feel. The flavor is as good as its counterpart without the extra calories and fat--Conscious Cuisine at its best!"

Saffron-Chive Sauce
From "Conscious Cuisine" by Cary Neff
(Makes 2 1/2 Cups)

1/2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced yellow onion (about 1 large)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp saffron threads
1 cup white wine
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup diced, peeled potatoes (about 2 medium)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives.

Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Stir in the onion, garlic, and saffron and cook until the onion has softened and the saffron has released its color, about 2 minutes. Pour in the wine and cook until reduced and the pan is almost dry, about 3 to 5 minutes, to concentrate the flavors of the sauce. Add the stock and potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.

Carefully ladle the potato mixture into a blender and process until smooth. Strain the blended mixture through a colander lined with cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer. Pour the strained sauce back into the sauce pan and bring to a low boil. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Stir in the chives.

Use the sauce immediately of cool quickly by setting in a bowl of ice and water. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week in the refrigerator or freeze for about 1 month.

Nutritional Info: Per 1/4 cup: Calories: 45, Protein: 1g, Total Fat: 0g, Saturated Fat: 0g, Carbohydrates: 7g, Dietary Fiber: 1g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Sodium: 40mg


Pistachio-Basil Pesto
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 1 1/2 cups)

3/4 cup pistachios, shelled
2 packed cups fresh basil leaves
3 gloves garlic, chopped
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil (plus more to blend if needed)
salt and black pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in a food processor, adding additional olive oil as needed to get it to the desired consistency.

Notes/Results: Excellent! The saffron sauce was thick and creamy--although it is hard to see that in the pictures as it coated the pasta so well. The pesto brightened up the flavor of the dish and added a satisfying nuttiness to it. I was a little worried that the saffron would be too bitter and overpowering in the sauce but it was actually fairly mild and lightly sweet. This is a healthy vegan dish that tastes decadent and I like the bright colors of the sauce and pesto. I would make it again.

If you would like to join in the Food 'n Flix fun, the deadline for this month's film is this Thursday, June 30th. I'll be rounding up the entries here at Kahakai Kitchen shortly after.

I am also sending this curly-noodled dish to Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by its founder, Ruth. Ruth will be rounding up a plethora of wonderful pasta dishes on Friday.



  1. The past and pesto looks delicious!

  2. Wow I am super impressed with that sauce! I never would have thought that a vegan cream sauce could look so could (and require so few ingredients!).

  3. Oh, it looks so delicious! I think all three of them would slurp these noodles happily ;) I wish I had a big bowl for myself, actually. Yum!

  4. great recipe and love that you make it healthier

  5. I wanted to participate, but my quilting has been taking precedence over my cooking of late. I love the idea of using pistachios for the pesto and agree that thickening with potatoes is a great calorie-saver. What a fabulous sauce. And who can resist fusilli!

  6. loved the movie, saw it for the first time the other week. this pasta looks so good!

  7. I really love that you came up with a dish to represent all the characters - very thoughtful and creative, Deb! I have a ton of basil coming in right now and I also happen to have a ton of pistachios. I'm thinking that I'm definitely going to have to make this pesto. Your pasta looks amazing!

  8. ?--thank you!

    Joanne--Thanks! it is a pretty awesome sauce--I want to try it with some other things. ;-)

    girlichef--Mahalo! I'll trade you some for some of your tiramisu. ;-)

    Rebecca--thank you! ;-)

    Arlene--Hopefully you can join in next month when Kim hosts. ;-)

    Kat--thanks! The movie is cute isn't it?! ;-)

    Kim--thanks! Hope you like the pesto--it is a fun change from other nuts. ;-)

  9. Wow! A vegan cream sauce!!! Who'd have thought! Note how many exlamation marks. What a great recipe. Thanks so much for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.


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