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My Love Affair With Pesto!

Posted Jun 29 2010 12:00am

What is pesto? It is a paste composed of basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and Parmesan cheese. The term pesto is derived from the word pestle, as it was originally made with a mortar and pestle. Today, it is usually made with a food processor. For creative cooks, pesto offers unlimited possibilities.

Basil Pesto

2 c. fresh basil leaves, packed
½ c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ c. extra virgin olive oil
⅓ c. walnuts or pine nuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

If you are using walnuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times in a food processor. Combine the basil in with the nuts, pulse a few times more. Add the garlic, pulse a few times more. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated Parmesan cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. When I make pesto to freeze, I omit the cheese and add it when I am ready to use it.

There are so many ways I use pesto. I add to hot pasta for a quick side dish, use in place of pizza sauce, add more olive oil and use as a dipping sauce for bread, as a topping for baked potatoes or thin with red wine vinegar for salad dressing. This is a must for everyone’s kitchen! When I have access to large amounts of basil, I make a large batch and freeze dollops in ice-cube trays. When they are frozen, I transfer to a zipper freezer bag. It retains its fresh flavor and I can enjoy pesto year around!

We ate a vegetarian supper tonight. I spread a thin layer of pesto on my whole wheat flat breads, then topped with thinly sliced Roma tomatoes, sauted red onions and yellow peppers. I sprinkled Parmesan cheese over the top and baked at 350 for 15 minutes. The crust was crisp enough to pick up and eat. (just how we love our pizza crust!)

I served a mixture of yellow and red raspberries, blueberries, peaches, purple plums and blackberries for our dessert. I love this time of year, when the fresh fruit selection is amazing! I will return to HyVee tomorrow to pick up more plums…they are out of this world!

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