Thursday, August 6, 2009

I'm Back ... with Pesto

This summer has been ... dismal. I want to find something positive to say, but really, it's been the crappiest summer I've had in memory. It's why I had to take a hiatus from this journal. Actually it's not just summer's fault, it all started around April, so spring has some blame as well, but if I never have another year like this one it'll be too soon. Maybe fall will bring better tidings, and the Seattle weather is helping that right along, being cloudy and 68°F today.

In food news, my cousin now has a fresh vegetable garden, and so far it's yielded a lot of salad. A lot of salad. That's fine though, because with summer fruit and tomatoes bursting with flavor, there are worse things to have to eat. :D The other 'crop' her new garden has so far yielded in abundance is basil. After eating her basil, I must say that if you have the will and space (they can be potted) and don't have a brown thumb like I have, grow your own basil. It's 100 times more flavorful than the kind you buy in the grocery store. The difference is amazing.

So I've been having a lot of fresh mozzarella with basil and tomato, one of my favorite things to eat, and of course, with so much basil, it's practically a requirement to make pesto.

I tried making pesto with my mortar and pestle for the first time, and I just have to say ... those that make their pesto this way all the time, bless you. Bless your patience and tireless muscles, because I had to give up and bring out the Mini-Prep. Making pesto is such a cinch, and so delicious, that I'm not sure why I don't do it more often, even if I have to use store-bought basil. Toss the pesto with some pasta (preferably something like rotini, so the pesto can get nice and settled into all the little nooks and crannies) and sliced grape tomatoes and pow! You have a meal that bursts with flavor, each bite a revelation.

Seriously, it's that good.

Pesto (from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)

  • 1 or 2 plump garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (plus more to taste)
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts
  • 3 cups loosely packed basil leaves, stems removed, leaves washed and dried (preferably Genovese (Italian) basil)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2-3 tbsp grated pecorino Romano to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp soft butter (optional)
  1. By hand: Smash the garlic with 1/2 tsp salt and the pine nuts to break them up, then add the basil leaves a handful at a time. (If you're impatient, you can speed things up by tearing the leaves into smaller pieces first.) Grind them, using a circular motion, until you have a fairly fine paste with very small flecks of leaves. Briefly work in the cheeses and butter, then stir in the olive oil. Taste for salt.
  2. In a food processor: Use the same ingredients but in the following order: Process the garlic, salt, and pine nuts until fairly finely chopped, then add the basil and olive oil. When smooth, add the cheeses and butter and process just to combine.

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