For Christmas, the hubby surprised me with a special gift–a Besh Box. I was reading up on this latest endeavor by Chef John Besh in the weeks preceding Christmas and was contemplating buying one myself. But I don’t recall ever mentioning that to Larry. I shouldn’t be surprised, though, by his perfect gift-giving abilities. After 20 years together, the man can pretty much read my mind. He also follows the New Orleans food scene almost as closely as I do and knows that any food-related or New Orleans-inspired gift rocks my world.
So this Besh Box is really cool. It’s basically a monthly gourmet cooking kit that’s been curated by Besh himself. You can purchase just one or sign up for a three, six or twelve month subscription. Each box is centered on a certain theme and contains a collection of the Chef’s favorite recipes along with special food items that include locally sourced and small batch artisan ingredients, cooking tools and other goodies to inspire you to create fun and delicious recipes and meals. Everyone is encouraged to connect with Chef Besh and other Besh Box recipients by sharing their creations on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+. And each box supports a specific charitable organization. This particular box benefitted the Wounded Warrior Project.
The theme of my box was “Holidays from the Heart” created to inspire each recipient to celebrate the holidays by cooking and breaking bread with family and friends. The box contained:
- Louisiana pecans from Inglewood Farm,
- vanilla beans,
- A pasta/pastry cutter,
- A dough scraper,
- Organic jalapeño pepper seeds,
- A cook’s towel,
- Three recipe cards,
- Chef Besh’s holiday playlist and
- A silver fleur-de-lis Christmas ornament.
At first glance, each item made sense except for the jalapeño seeds. I couldn’t figure how they fit in until I read the Chef’s notes which suggested that the seeds be started now (indoors) so the fruit will be ready to use in upcoming recipes. Clever planning. I immediately understood the inclusion of the ornament, which may also seem out of place to some. It’s a New Orleans thing–lagniappe. That little something extra to help you celebrate the holidays.
Before I even opened the box, I felt this overwhelming anxiety like what I assumed it would feel like to be a contestant on Chopped. When I pulled the top back, I carefully examined everything, studied the notes and recipes and began processing it all. While Chef Besh’s recipes looked amazing (they were for a Basic Sweet Dough, Apple & Pear Tart with Pecans and a Hot Spiced Wine), I didn’t feel like baking and had no one to share the wine with. I wanted to come up with an original recipe that included every aspect of the box sans the jalapeño seeds and the ornament. Well, I never would have survived the Chopped Kitchen with this box because it took me about a week to wrap my head around the contents. Even then I fell short–I didn’t use the pasta/pastry cutter. I would have had I had the time to make homemade pasta. But I didn’t. Anyway, what I did create was this amazing Vanilla Bean and Pecan Pesto. Sounds a bit unconventional, I know. But trust me. It’s amazing. The flavors of both the pecans and the vanilla get a big boost from the cilantro, jalapeño and fresh lemon juice
Oh, and you’re probably wondering where the dough scraper fit in. Well, it’s actually a multipurpose item that also functions extremely efficiently as a mini-chopping board. When I saw the Epicurean insignia, I knew it was also a great cutting surface. For those who are unfamiliar with Epicurean, they make the most amazing chopping boards. Their boards won’t dull your knifes and are dishwasher safe. Just had to throw that in because I swear by their products. Okay, back to the box and my recipe.
I created this pesto with the sole purpose of dunking grilled shrimp in it. The hubby, however, had different plans. He took the grilled shrimp and the pesto and tossed them with pasta. The pesto was such a big hit, I made a second batch which the family used on cheese crostini and grilled chicken. It’s good stuff that’s extremely versatile.
If you’re looking for a unique way to surprise a special someone who likes to cook or who has a chef crush on John Besh), look into the Besh Box. Here’s the link: www.beshbox.com. The theme of the next box is the “Big Game Box” which starts shipping January 20. Sounds fun!
Grilled Shrimp With Vanilla Bean and Pecan Pesto Recipe
8 12-inch wooden skewers
3/4 cup Louisiana pecan halves
2 1/2 cups lightly packed cilantro leaves
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for shrimp
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded
2 garlic cloves, chopped and mashed to paste with 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and black pepper
2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
Soak skewers in water for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place pecans in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Transfer pecans to a food processor or blender. Add cilantro, olive oil, cheese, jalapeño, garlic, scraped vanilla bean seeds, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside. Prepare grill for direct cooking over medium-high heat. Thread 3 or 4 shrimp on each skewer and brush with olive oil. Season shrimp with salt and pepper and grill until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Remove shrimp from skewers and place in a large bowl. Pour pesto over shrimp and toss to coat. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.