Friday, July 24, 2009

Feed Me Fridays: Pesto 101

Well, by now y'all have probably read about how I set myself aflame and so in theory, you know all about Pesto 101. But just in case you somehow missed out...

Me (on Facebook and Twitter): My neighbors keep dropping off bucketloads of tomatoes and I keep cooking awesome tomatoey things.

Alicat: I have an assload of basil I don't know what to do with.

Me: Pesto.

Alicat: I don't know how to make pesto.

Me: Pesto Party.

Lilsaej: I have chicken. How do I get in on the Pesto Party action?

Me: Show up with the chicken. I'll supply the wine. Alicat has the basil.

BOOM. And your next Feed Me Friday is born.

I purchased Pesto, by Lou Seibert Pappas, about a 100 years ago (for $9.95 by the way - currently available used on Amazon for $75!) and it has proven to be one of the best cookbook purchases of my life if only because of the recipe for Sun-Dried Tomato Roasted-Garlic Pesto (more on that later). Seriously - I love all things Italian - including pesto - and this book is chock full of fresh, herby sauces and spreads and recipes that incorporate them.

By way of history, according to Lou Seibert Pappas:

"The word pesto comes from the verb pestare, meaning "to pound or grind," as in a mortar. Traditional Italian cooks always use a mortar to make pesto, preferring the finely minced texture that results."

Um I am all about the Cuisinart (even though I totally have a mortar and pestle).

So anyways, once Alicat and Lilsaej arrived, we poured the requisite vino, and I set about teaching them how to make pesto - which frankly - is not that tough.

I took 2 cups of packed fresh basil leaves PLUCKED STRAIGHT FROM ALICAT'S PLANT (can't beat it), 3 Tbsp. of pine nuts, and 2 large garlic cloves which I smashed, threw them into the Cuisinart workbowl and hit On. Once that had all been minced, I added 3 Tbsp. of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (actually - I think I may have steered from tradition and used a Parmesan-Pecorino-Asiago blend - but whatevs) and 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, hit on, and processed til blended. So yeah - that was easy.

The pesto was tossed with some spaghetti and topped with some more grated cheese. YUM.

Now the original overly ambitious plan was also to make a dill pesto, since in theory Alicat had an out of control dill situation - however, she did not bring enough to actually make, but I will share the simple recipe (all of these recipes are from Ms. Pappas):

In a blender or food processor, place 1.5 cups packed fresh dill leaves, 1/2 cup packed fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley sprigs, 2 Tbsp. walnuts, pine nuts or pistachios and 2 large garlic cloves, smashed. Whirl until finely minced. Add 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil and 2 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese and process until blended. Transfer to a small bowl, cover and chill.

This makes about 3/4 cup of pesto and Ms. Pappas suggests using it one of the following ways:

* Shrimp and pineapple appetizer kebabs with a dill pesto and sour cream dip
* Crab cakes with dill pesto
* Sliced cucumbers, yogurt and dill pesto
* Shrimp stuffed avocados topped with dill pesto
* Angel hair pasta with scallops and dill pesto
* Salad Nicoise topped with a dill pesto vinaigrette
* Grilled salmon with dill pesto served with leaf spinach and braised white beans

I had boiled some baby red potatoes and was going to mash them with dill pesto and sour cream and perhaps add a sprinkle of cheese. I'll have to try that next time.

So my most favorite recipe in the world is Ms. Pappas's Sun-Dried Tomato and Roasted-Garlic Pesto. This stuff is heaven and I used to make it all the time, keep it in the fridge, and pretty much eat it with a spoon. I once, because I am mildly insane, made it with TWO whole cloves of garlic. So ummm yeah...unless you're looking to keep vampires away, it's a bit much.


1 whole head of garlic
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 cup moist-style sun dried tomatoes
1/3 cup packed fresh flat-leaf (Italian) parsley sprigs
2 Tbsp. chopped garlic chives or green onion tops
2 Tbsp. pistachios or pine nuts
2 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 325. Slice the top off the head of garlic and place the garlic in a small baking dish; rub it with 2 tsp. of the olive oil. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, or until soft. Let cool, then squeeze the garlic puree from its papery wrapper directly into a blender or food processor. Add the tomatoes, parsley, garlic chives (which are rare so don't feel bad using green onion tops), and nuts. Whirl until finely minced. Add the remaining oil and cheese, and process until blended. Transfer to a small bowl, cover and chill.

This makes about 1 cup of pesto which is never enough so probably double the recipe because you will want this stuff around always.

It's a versatile condiment that can be used 100 different ways - we simply slathered it all over the grilled chicken (yes - I did manage to finally grill the chicken after scorching the shit out of myself) and on the leftover garlicky-cheesy-tomato muffins that I had saved for dinner. As stated before, it's also perfectly acceptable to eat straight from the bowl with a spoon. No one will judge.

To complete the meal, I also served some sauteed haricots vert (seriously y'all - my local Bi-Lo has haricots vert once a year so don't I think I didn't snatch their overpriced French asses up tout de suite when I saw them) with butter and fresh lemon:

And I made a salad with mixed baby lettuces, artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, red onion and some insanely delicious goat cheese from Trader Joe's:

The whole thing looked a little like this:

Ok - well, part of the whole thing. Clearly I failed to get a shot of the entire table. Blame the vino. Or the fact that food porn gets tiring after a while.

Anyways, Pesto 101 was a rousing success (my injuries notwithstanding) and because this is the South, Alicat left her giant ass basil plant with me as a thank you! Don't worry, she has another out of control basil plant at home so there's definitely more pesto in her future. In BOTH of our futures...

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...


Karen from Mentor said...

Ok, so when is your dinner party for the 1,500 of us out here drooling?

debb said...

hello...once again, you may send a care package my way any day now.