Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pick a Peck of Pestos!

Pesto...Does that word sound difficult to you? To make, I mean?
If it does, fear not.
It is so easy, so yummy, so forgiving, to freezable, just so versatile, you'll be addicted!
Now, to make good Pesto, you need a few key ingredients, most of them the freshest you can find. No canned stuff here.
You'll also need a couple of key appliances and tools, but most people have these items at their disposal, so no worries, nothing too exotic.
Here goes... Pesto perfection is just around the bend...
Pesto is traditionally made with Basil, Pine Nuts, Extra Virgin olive Oil, Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and garlic.
I do not happen to like Parmigiano cheese and LOVE Pecorino Romano, so I substitute that.
BUT! Nowadays, tradition is thrown to the wind, and you can make Pestos out of just about anything! AS long as it's high quality and fresh.
So... Regular Pesto has the above ingredients,
but you can sub out the Basil for Spinach, Parsley, Arugula, Mint, Sun Dried Tomatoes,Cilantro, you get the picture.
You can switch out the Pine Nuts for Walnuts, Seeds, Almonds, No nuts, etc... I wouldn't use Cashews, too sweet and too much oil.
Don't switch out the EVOO. It's too fantastic to switch.
Switch out the cheese for any hard grating cheese. Not soft cheeses. Stick to Romano, Parm, Ricotta Salata etc...
Garlic... there is no suitable substitute in my opinion. I know... spoken like a true Italian.
So, here is the Master Recipe.
2 cups Basil
1/2 - 3/4 cup Olive Oil
1/2 cup Pine nuts
1 cup grated cheese
2 cloves garlic
Whiz this around in a FOOD PROCESSOR on pulse for a minute or so.
When it starts to turn opaque, you can now freeze the pesto in an ice cube tray and use it to flavor soups, use later for pasta, almost anything!
I use about 2 TBS for a pound of cooked Pasta, and toss it around with a little of the pasta cooking water. I freeze the rest for later use.
It's also great spread on bread, sprinkled with cheese and broiled like garlic bread!
Don't be alarmed when you notice that after it's frozen, it turns black in the basil version.
That's what happens when basil leaves are bruised. It will still taste great.

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