Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Many Pleasures of Pesto



Pesto is amazing. It's hard to believe that I didn't even know it existed when I was a kid. While I don't recall the first time I tasted pesto, I do know that once I did I was smitten. There's no better way to bring basil to life than by blending it with toasted pine nuts, olive oil and freshly grated parmesan cheese. And luckily you can now buy fresh basil even in the dead of winter thanks to greenhouses. But I do like making pesto most in the Sping and Summer months when I can pick up a fresh bunch of just picked, locally grown basil at the Farmers Market in Central Square (which will thankfully be up and running again on May 22nd - I'm counting the days!).

Pesto can bring any pasta dish to life. I've included a recipe below to get you started. But it's also amazing in soups. Add a dollop to corn chowder or chicken soup. Pesto is also excellent as an alternative spread for sandwiches. A simple tomato and mozzarella sandwich with pesto is the perfect summer sandwich. Pack one for the beach, a picnic, a hike. Marinate some shrimp or chicken in pesto and grill them up on the grill or in the broiler. Absolutely delicious. And that's just the beginning of the many things you can do with pesto. As you can see, pesto is more than just a pasta companion. So make plenty, freeze the extra and have plenty on hand for whenever you get a hankering. Enjoy!


PESTO RECIPE

Ingredients:

• A large bunch of fresh basil (4 - 6 cups of basil leaves)
• 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted in a pan on the stove in a little bit of olive oil (walnuts can be substituted but get the pine nuts if you can)
• 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
• 1 or 2 garlic cloves (depending on how much you love garlic. Keep in mind the garlic will be raw so you don't need a ton.)
• About 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
• Salt and pepper to taste

How to:

1. Wash the bunch of basil, remove the leaves and dry them with a paper towel.
2. Put the basil leaves in a food processor. You may find that you have more leaves than you have room for in the food processor. Not to worry. Just pack in what you can, drizzle in some of the olive oil, process what's in there, pack it down, drizzle some more olive oil and add more leaves.
3. Once all the basil leaves are in the food processor, add the garlic cloves and pine nuts and process.
4. Drizzle in more olive oil if needed. The mixture should be wet but not overly oily.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. You can add the grated parmesan cheese at this point or wait until you actually serve the pesto and combine it at that time. I like to do that because if I have extra pesto, I prefer to freeze it without the cheese in it. Seems to keep better. Also if you just want to keep it in the refrigerator for a couple of days, squeeze in a little lemon juice to keep the color from turning.



PASTA WITH PESTO, BROILED TROUT AND PEAS
(pictured above)

This is just one of a million pasta dishes you can make with pesto. You can use any kind of fish. Chicken is fine too. Or even just go veggie and add zucchini, squash or other seasonal vegetables. I used trout because I was lucky enough to get some fresh from my brother. Yes, I am spoiled. Thanks Dick!

Ingredients
1 lb. fresh water trout, wild salmon or other flavorful fish (personal preference - whole fish, skin on, keeps fish moist)
1/2 lb. pasta (penne or fusilli work great)
About 4 tablespoons of pesto (just enough to nicely coat the pasta)
1/2 cup of frozen peas (thawed)
A handful of toasted pine nuts
1 - 2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Turn on the broiler.
Boil water for the pasta.

How to:
1. Rinse and pat dry the fish.
2. Cut 3 or 4 vertical slits through the skin of the fish on each side.
3. Rub olive oil on both sides of the fish.
4. Sprinkle sea salt on both sides of the fish.
5. Broil the fish for 4 minutes on both sides.
6. When fish is done, remove the skin and flake the fish.
7. Cook the pasta until al dente.
8. Drain the pasta, add a small sliver of butter to coat the pasta.
9. Add the flaked fish, pine nuts, peas and pesto to the pasta.
10. If you didn't add the parmesan to the pesto when you made it, add it now.
11. Season with salt and pepper to your taste.

You can eat this dish warm or cold. It's fantasic both ways.
Serves 3 - 4 depending on how hungry your guests are. You can always just cook more pasta and add a little more pesto to serve more people.

3 Comments:

Blogger Carol said...

yummmm! i had no idea pesto could be used in so many ways. also had no idea you could freeze it! thanks!

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Donna said...

This recipe could change every bad feeling I have about peas! Sounds amazing and using trout is a great idea.

1:56 PM  
Blogger mini-me said...

i love fresh pesto. will have to try this recipe :)

2:29 PM  

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