“The Healthy Gourmet”
May 27, 2010
I am a “pot gardener”. There, I‘ve said it. But before you call in the drug task force, know that my “pot gardening” is totally legal – I love to garden but the only sunny spots I have are on the deck, so I am forced to plant my flowers and herbs in pots. With the wonderful weather we are having my plants, especially my herbs, are thriving and look absolutely beautiful.
So here’s my dilemma – my herbs, especially my basil, are so healthy and pretty and BIG and I am really enjoying the way they look. But as they grow they need to be harvested so they will produce more herbs throughout the summer in the limited space the pots offer. So I need to harvest them, which means cutting down the beautiful foliage and waiting for it to grow back.
But that is really not such a horrible dilemma because the results of cutting back my herbs will be many delicious and healthy meals, thanks to the help of my food processor and a few other ingredients. You see, I am going to make pesto – lots and lots of great pesto.
A little history on pesto, thanks to my friends at Wikipedia: “Pesto is a generic term for anything which is made by pounding”. Traditionally, pesto was made in a marble mortar using a pestle to pound it. The basic ingredients have been basil, salt, and garlic, pounded or “mushed” into a sort of creamy paste. Pine nuts are then added and crushed into the paste, followed by grated cheese (usually Parmigiano-Reggiano or other hard cheese) and olive oil.
Thanks to modern technology making pesto is a lot easier on the arms and shoulders with the use of a food processor. As much basil as I have growing, I’d look like Popeye with bulging muscles if I had to pound all that into a paste! But with a few quick pulses of the food processor and the safe wonders of the food chute on it top, making pesto is a snap.
And following the Wiki definition, we do have to limit ourselves to just basil, nor do we have to stay with pine nuts or Parmesan cheese. Here are a few interesting twists on pesto with some suggestions of what to serve them with. Feel free to alter the amounts of each ingredient to match your own taste – these great combos are meant to be customized. Note that pesto freezes very well – place it in small plastic containers leaving a bit of room for expansion in each container, and place the containers in a gallon-sized freezer bag. It will keep for up to 6 months.
Enjoy, and happy herbing!
Makes 1 ½ cups
2 c packed cilantro leaves
¾ c anejo or feta cheese
½ c roasted salted sunflower seeds
2 T fresh lime juice
½ jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded
¾ c olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine the cilantro, cheese, sunflower seeds, lime juice and jalapeno in a food processor and pulse to combine. With the machine running, gradually add the olive oil. Season the pest to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours. Bring to room temperature and stir before using.
Cilantro pesto is great on cold pasta salad, or as a topping for grilled chicken or fish
Parsley Walnut Pesto
Makes 2 cups
2 c packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
¾ c toasted chopped walnuts
½ c grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ t salt
1 c extra-virgin olive oil
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoon(s) lemon zest
Place the parsley, walnuts, cheese, garlic, and salt in the bowl of a food processor with the metal blade. Pulse until well-combined. In a separate bowl combine the oil, lemon juice and zest. With the motor running, add the oil mixture to the parsley mixture until well blended.
Parsley pesto is great spread on crusty bread as an appetizer, or as wonderful sandwich. It’s also perfect as a topping for boiled red potatoes, and can be put on grilled chicken or pork.
Makes 1 ½ cups
1/3 c fresh rosemary, leaves only, washed and chopped
1 ½ c fresh parsley, washed and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
½ c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ c walnuts
½ c olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine rosemary, parsley, garlic, parmesan, walnuts, and oil in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse till well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Rosemary pesto is wonderful with grilled chicken and/or vegetables, pasta, and potatoes.