Tuesday, May 22, 2012

basil pesto, a summer sauce

basil pesto is such a versatile and simple sauce, and, to me, it simply screams summer. this savory and tasty sauce can be thrown together in the food processor in a matter of minutes and the possibilities are only as limited as your culinary imagination.

you can create a lively pesto in so many different combos, check out this saveur post about 11 kinds of pesto to brighten up your plate. i'm going to make the sun-dried tomato pesto with almonds this summer, as soon as the tomatoes start loading up the stalls at the farmers market!

i made a batch of pesto last week and used it on some pesto pizza and then last night i used the rest in a cold orzo salad. i used this pizza dough recipe that i tried out a couple weeks ago (and loved), topped it with the pesto and some fresh mozzarella and dollops of ricotta.

for the pesto orzo salad, i simply cooked 1 cup of orzo, and then drained it and tossed it with a 1/4 cup pesto while it was still steaming hot, with a glug or two of olive oil to loosen it up and really coat the orzo. i placed it in the fridge for about an hour, and then once it was nice and cool, i added organic cherry tomatoes, cubes of roasted chicken, a handful of steamed asparagus and some soft, creamy hunks of fresh mozzarella. i mixed it really well, and then popped it back into the fridge for a couple hours for the flavors to combine. cold orzo salad gets better with time, and is even better on the 2nd and 3rd days!

here are some other ways to use basil pesto...

-as a vinaigrette on a salad (mix 1T pesto with some olive oil and lemon juice)
-on hot or cold pasta
-pesto bread ( spread some pesto on a slice of baguette and top with a little mozzarella, bake and enjoy)
-tossed with roasted veggies
-mix with mayo and use on a blt or turkey sandwich
-on a grilled cheese
-with grilled shrimp, fish or chicken
-dolloped on soups as garnish
-on burgers or grilled chicken sandwiches
-in mashed potatoes
-white bean and pesto dip 
-spinach, pesto and fontina lasagna
-twice baked potatoes (mixed with some sour cream and cheddar)
-tossed with still-hot roasted baby potatoes

run to your farmers market and pick up a bag or two of basil and whip up some pesto as soon as you can.

i said run, hurry!

pesto can easily be frozen, just leave the cheese out. then, when you defrost it (overnight in the fridge) just add in some parmesan.

basil pesto
slightly adapted via alice waters the art of simple food

1 bunch, about 1 cup packed, fresh basil
2 garlic cloves
couple pinches salt
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
1/4 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano (use the real-deal good stuff)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
 couple squeezes fresh lemon juice

alice waters makes this with a mortar and pestle but i don't have one so i just whizzed this together in the food processor.

pulse together the basil, garlic, pine nuts and salt until it is all about the same size. slowly stream in the olive oil while pulsing. pour into a bowl and add the parmesan. combine. taste and add more salt if needed. i like to add some lemon juice here, mix, taste and add more if desired.

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