Posts Tagged "pesto"

One Method, Endless Pesto Possibilities

The key to learning to cook, and learning to cook well, is a willingness to experiment. If you must have exact recipes and exact ingredients then you will never feel completely comfortable in the kitchen. Cooking is learning a method and experimenting and tasting and tasting until you learn what works well together and what doesn’t.

Take pesto, for example. Sure, you can follow a recipe that shows you how to make a basic basil pesto. Or you can master the method behind making pesto. Once you understand the method, then the possibilities and ingredients are endless.

And so below are the things I have found make excellent pestos:

  1. Herbs, particularly basil. Basil is, of course, the key ingredient in a traditional pesto, and I have found it is by far the best herb to use, but why not throw in other herbs as well? Parsley works well. Even non-Italian herbs, such as cilantro, can give pesto a different twist.
  2. Greens. Not traditional, but such a good way to use greens! Spinach, arugula, and kale are my favorite. Each adds a unique taste and gives you a different pesto. Experiment with using different combinations.
  3. Garlic. Really, can you have pesto without garlic? I usually use at least 1-3 cloves, depending on how garlicky I want it to be.
  4. Nuts. Pine nuts are traditional, but, in my opinion, they are not worth the money. Experiment with other nuts. I personally love almonds and pistachios in pestos.
  5. Cheese. Though not necessary, I personally love adding cheese. Hard cheeses, such as Parmesan and Romano, are best. Also good: feta. Just don’t add too much. A handful will do. You should have far more greens and herbs than cheese.
  6. An acid. Lemon juice is traditional. About 1/2 a lemon will do the trick. Also try: Lime juice. Vinegar.
  7. Olive oil. Just enough to make it smooth.
  8. Salt and pepper. Want it spicy? Add red pepper flakes.

A bulk of the pesto should be herbs and greens. Put everything, except the olive oil, in the food processor and pulse it several times. Add the olive oil while pulsing and process until smooth. Taste and adjust and write down what works well together.

Though my favorite way to serve pesto is on pasta (no surprise, right?), you can also put it on sandwiches or meat or use it as a dressing.

 

Pictured below is a combination of arugula, spinach, basil, slithered almonds, garlic, Ramon cheese, feta cheese, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

pesto-4

So what’s your favorite way to make pesto?

 

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Kale Pesto

kale pesto pasta

I love basil pesto during the summer but never, until recently, thought of trying other types of pestos during the winter. This recipe is based off one I found in Andrew Weil’s cookbook, True Food (which, if you haven’t seen yet, I highly recommend). I made some modifications. He uses pine nuts, which is traditional in pesto but expensive. Instead I used cashews. He also uses black kale, which I didn’t have. Instead I did a mixture of green kale and spinach, both of which I had on hand and needed to use. My modified recipe looked something like this:

4-5 cups of kale and spinach (though simply kale would be wonderful as well)

1/2 cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/4-1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup of cashews

1 clove of garlic, chopped

salt and pepper, to taste

red pepper flakes, to taste

Andrew Weil boils the kale for 3 minutes and then transfers it to an ice bath for an additional 3 minutes before draining it and squeezing out the water. I did this as well, though I suppose if you wanted to use raw kale, it would work. Otherwise, it’s a simple matter of putting all of the above ingredients in a food processor and pureeing until smooth.

Though this pesto could be used for so many things, my favorite way to eat pesto is on pasta. In the above photo you can see that I used pappardelle noodles, which are one of my favorites. No, in this case they are not homemade (though I love making pappardelle).  These noodles I bought frozen at Carfagna’s store. And if you live in Central Ohio and have never been to Carfagna’s then, well, you’re really missing out. Even I can’t make my own ravioli and pasta all the time, so Carfagna’s is my go to for frozen pasta.

To make the dish complete, toss the pasta and pesto with any seasonal sauteed or roasted vegetable(s) you have on hand. Eat. Savor. Enjoy.

 

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