Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!
Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Pulsing My Way to Pesto!

Last Year's basil crop!
Blogger's Note: I began writing this last Fall (2015) and for some reason put it aside and didn't come back to it until now. I wanted to complete it and share the recipes with my readers since I'm growing basil again on my deck. Both recipes below came out great and I highly recommend them. One change though for this year, I am going to freeze the remaining basil at the end of the growing season instead of dry it. In addition, this blog post is dedicated to my fraternity brother Alex Spiezio, who has encouraged me to continue writing about food and recipes. Thanks Alex!

Removing and cleaning the basil
I always seem to fail at my attempts at gardening. I have a great green indoor thumb but the outdoor garden seems to falter, probably due to my lack of patience or it becomes completely overgrown and unruly. What I am good at is growing herbs. Last year, my tomatoes faltered until the very end and my banana peppers only produced 4 peppers after something came by and ate every last damn pepper blossom off the plant. My herbs though did extremely well. I grew thyme, dill, catnip, chives, catnip and basil. I planted two Italian basil plants which did awesome! What to do with all that basil?

Over the past years, I have dried the basil out and used it over the winter for cooking.  I have also seen that you can freeze it in ice cube trays to use throughout the year. I decided to make pesto. I had never tried it but always have wanted to. I think it was my unnatural fear of food processors. LOL I've had a pesto recipe with tomatoes forever and have wanted to try it. I figured this was the year to make pesto! I reserved a third of it for use over the winter.

After about an hour of searching I finally found my food processor, a Black and Decker which was won at a bar raffle about two to three years ago, There it was, sitting in the basement in a dusty box never used, still wrapped in plastic, just waiting to take off a finger or two. Well I figured nothing like the present ... and I sure as heck wasn't gonna chop up and mix all that basil by hand. I'm a hands-on kinda cook but anyone who knows me knows that if I can use a machine to do the work, I will.

The food processor had so many parts, I felt like I was putting together R2-D2 from Star Wars; not to mention the possibility of slicing yourself just trying to figure out how the blades went in! But I have to say Thank G-d that the contraption has so many safety features because if it didn't, I'm sure my finger would be part of the 2015 pesto season. Once finally put together, the Black and Decker beamed back at me as if it were saying, "Well it's about friggin' time!"

Using the processor was actually a joy. It made things so much easier. Clean up ... again watching those sharp blades ... was pretty easy too. I don't' know how often I'll use it, but at least I can say I have! One observation when it comes to using it for the recipes: when you run the processor, keep an eye on the pesto. You don't want pesto soup.

One of my besties, Jen, gave me this great cook book, Giada's Family Dinners for one of my birthdays many moons ago. It is one of my favorites and Giada's recipes are so easy to follow and make. The one pesto recipe below comes out of it. Thanks again Jen!

Basil Pesto by Giada De Laurentiis  

2 cups fresh packed basil leaves
Giada's Pesto over rotini pasta
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1 garlic clove
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
About 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a blender or food processor, pulse the basil, pine nuts, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until finely chopped. With the blender/processor still running, gradually add enough oil to form a smooth and thick consistency. Transfer the pesto to a medium bowl and stir in the cheese. Season the pesto with more salt and pepper to taste. (The pesto can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Makes 1 cup.

Saved some to dry and use over the winter
Toasted Pine Nuts by Giada De Laurentiis

1 cup of pine nuts

Preheat a small, heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Place the pine nuts in the hot skillet and stir them until they become fragrant and golden brown on the outside, and pale golden throughout the inside, about 5 minutes.

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I found this next recipe in a newspaper years ago and have always wanted to make it. Well I finally got the chance! I had enough picked basil to make both.

Pesto Al Pomodoro (Tomato Pesto)

Tomato Pesto and Giada's Pesto
3/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup packed fresh parley leaves
4 cloves, garlic, peeled
Kosher salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup peeled, seeded, finely diced ripe tomatoes (about 3 medium sized)
freshly ground black pepper

Place basil, parsley, garlic, and salt in a food processor or blender. Roughly chop. With machine running, add olive oil. Shut off machine and scrap sides. Run machine again and slowly add tomatoes. Process until blended.Season with salt and pepper. Serves 6.


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