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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Pesto paradise

new basil.jpg

The summer has produced fine basil -- the incessant rain was good for something. Farmers' markets are full of the herb right now as are greengrocers and my garden. Time for pesto. Although the deep green, garlicky paste has become so popular that you can buy it commercially made year-round, it's extra delicious made at home. And so easy, it seems criminal not to do it.

One recent morning, I grabbed the farmers' market haul out of the refrigerator, added some I'd picked that morning from my garden, and tossed it all in a food processor. I added garlic, pine nuts, sea salt, and pepper, and whirred it until chopped fine. Then I slowly poured olive oil in through the feed tube. The color was brilliant green and a little chunkier than what you can buy. If I'm using it on pasta, I add Parmesan or a combination of Romano and Parm, but my husband likes it as a sauce without the cheese.

One evening I sauteed halved cherry tomatoes and garlic and then added spoonfuls of the pesto along with penne to accompany some herb-marinated chicken breasts. Last night I wanted something really quick, so I toasted homemade bread, slathered it with pesto, stacked slices of goat cheese and juicy tomatoes on top and then popped the open-face sandwiches in a toaster oven for a few minutes. Heaven, and less trouble than ordering takeout.

Pesto
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

1 bunch (about 2 cups loosely packed leaves) fresh basil, stemmed
3 large cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon sea salt
Few grinds of black pepper
3/4 to 1 cup olive oil
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

1. In a food processor, combine basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, salt and pepper. Work until fine. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and pulse again.
2. With the motor running, begin adding the oil in a slow stream until the mixture emulsifies. Add only enough oil to get a thick sauce, not an oily mixture. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if you like. Stir in the cheese.

Posted by Alison Arnett at 05:57 PM
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