Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Pesto, the Ultimate No-Cook Dinner

A recipe for pesto is a cook's best friend when the temperatures rise.

As the dog days of summer arrive and sizzle, we are all looking for ways to avoid turning on the oven.  One of my go-to summer meals is pesto.  My husband is a huge fan--and the poor chap was born in January, so he is never able to have his favorite meal at its best on his birthday, for fresh basil is notoriously scarce in the winter.  But, good news for him now, it's everywhere these days and I am making batches upon batches to both eat and freeze.  (Pesto is pretty darned good frozen, but there's nothing like a fresh batch made from just-picked basil.)

We were the recent and grateful recipients of a generous bouquet of basil from our neighbor Elyse's garden.  But if you are not lucky enough to have a generous basil growing friend, head to Iovine Brothers; their basil is fresh, local and top quality.  I went to work immediately, transforming these fragrant leaves, alchemistically, into my husband's favorite elixir.  Full disclosure:  I am a pesto fan, too.

Here's my version, which makes about 2 cups.

Fresh basil, rinsed and ready to go.

Philly Food Lovers' Pesto

10 cloves garlic (best to have all members of the household partake as it is rather fragrant.)
5-6 cups rinsed basil leaves (I remove the tough, thick stems, but leave the smaller, thinner ones.)
1 cup olive oil
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp salt
a few generous shakes of red pepper flakes, to taste
4 TBSP pine nuts

Mix all ingredients in Cuisinart, and puree til smooth.

This will keep in the fridge for about a week; beyond that it should be frozen.

Use this glorious goo in any of the following ways:

  • Toss it on al dente pasta (reserve a bit of the pasta water and toss in a tablespoon at a time to distribute sauce evenly.)
  • Slather it on salmon fillets, then roast, grill, or saute.  (NB:  this works best if you only coat the flesh side; avoid the skin side, and cook skin-side down without turning fish.--if grilling use indirect heat.)
  • Grill bread and spread with pesto.
  • Put it in a pretty jar, tie with a ribbon and give it as a very impressive hostess gift or 'just because' present.
  • Saute shrimp in garlic and olive oil and top with pesto before serving.
  • Use on pizza instead of marinara sauce.
  • Kind of like the ubiquitous visa card--pesto is anywhere you want it to be--round out the flavor of soups with a scoop of it, add it to any pasta sauce, use it as a dip for crusty bread, a condiment for a savory cheese plate, or with antipasti.

It is entirely possible that my husband has tried it on ice cream and in coffee, such is his love for the stuff.  I restrict my usage to the suggestions listed above.


Anonymous said...

thats alot of olive oil - 1 cup....

Philly Food Lovers said...

Anonymous: this is a pretty large batch, since we use 5-6 cups of basil, but if you want to ease up on the oil, this recipe will still be delicious. That is one of the many advantages of pesto, it's kind of indestructable. Enjoy and thanks for writing!