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Toasted Almond and Basil Pesto

Posted Nov 07 2012 7:43pm
What a whirlwind of events that took place yesterday, for the country, and for the state of Washington. President Barack Obama re-elected for another 4 years, the passing of Initiative 502 - legalization of marijuana, and Referendum 74 - same-sex marriage, in the state of Washington. What an exciting time to be living in America, and in particular, the beautiful state of Washington. 

Despite the fact that I am not legally allowed to vote, I watched in anticipation, trying to make sense of it all - especially, the meaning behind Swing States (a new term for me). This is my first year living in the US during a Presidential election, so I was quite intrigued by the process, the debates, and the press coverage. I feel slightly more informed and up-to-date on current events this time around, thanks to my relatively new twitter account, and carefully chosen group of political savvy folk whom I follow.

My day started off as usual. I woke around 8:00 am, took the dog for our normal stroll. Something seemed a bit odd though. People looked rushed, and panicked. Serious in nature. I brewed my morning cup of coffee and turned on my laptop. A few presidential-campaign-related inks, a few news stories. My twitter account flooded with pictures of proud folk adorned with 'I voted' stickers. Reminders from almost everyone to vote, trying not to get annoyed that I can't. After lunch, my twitter account turned into chaos. Re-tweets of threats, predictions, celebratory recipes, recipes to calm your nerves - mostly involving bourbon. In order to escape all things social media, I went to the kitchen and turned on the stove - a clear solution. 
Yesterday, being a very complicated and complex day, I made something very simple and reassuring. Though complex in flavor, it was simple in design and execution. A great recipe to achieve a fast and stress-free culinary experience. This recipe was inspired by my terrarium. Well, not directly, but in some small way it played a role. Last week I bought a terrarium and a bonsai tree in a gorgeous clay pot. The plant lady convinced me into getting both, and although I was skeptical at first, I am quite happy I did. A terrarium is a tiny self-containing eco-system. Mine in particular is enclosed in a beautiful large glass jar with a cork lid. It is filled with soil, shiny blue rocks, moss, and ferns. There was some sort of bright red plant nestled inside the ferns, but unfortunately it has since passed. My terrarium appears to be very moist. Too moist, I think. Therefore, I left the lid off for a few hours to dry it out, and in the process became motivated to prune and clean up my other plants, trying to take my mind off of more serious things. I have a big and bountiful basil plant that I bought this summer. Unfortunately, it seems to dry out every few days, requiring a lot of love and attention, which on some days I can't afford to give, so I changed up the pot, and trimmed back all of the large leaves. I was then left with enough basil to make something delicious. With a bag of almonds on hand, I whizzed them with some garlic, oil, and Pecorino cheese. A dash of salt and pepper, and within minutes I was left with a creamy fresh and flavorful spread. A sense of completion I felt. 
makes 1 cup
adapted from Tastespotting
notes: you can substitute the almonds for pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, walnuts, or cashews. Pesto tastes best, when fresh basil is used, picked from the plant that day, also a good olive oil is important to the flavor. If quick tip for storing pesto - fill a ice cube tray with the pesto and then freeze. Remove a cube when you wan to use. 

1/2 cup whole raw almonds, unsalted and toasted
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup Pecorino cheese, grated
1/2 - 1 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
Place the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
In a food processor, whiz the almonds, garlic, basil, and cheese until crumbly.
While the processor is still running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until a desired consistency is reached. I prefer my pesto on the smooth side, therefore I err on the side of too much oil. 
Add the salt and pepper to taste. 
Pesto can be used as a sauce for pasta, potatoes, risotto, gnocchi, as a spread for sandwiches, or as a marinate. It is a versatile condiment, and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week, or in the freezer for 6 months. 
When mixing pesto with pasta, potatoes, or risotto, stir it in at the last minute, just before serving.
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