Pesto! Pesto! Pesto!

I feel like there has been a bit of a backlog on cookingfever lately. New dishes have been rolling out of my kitchen daily, yet I find myself with little time to share them. The irony of it all is that I am currently on summer vacation, and I have all the free time in the world. I practically don’t even have an excuse to not post something new daily. Maybe it would make sense if I were to explain my daily routine to you.

Most weekdays I wake up around 10 am and trundle on downstairs, where I plop myself in front of the TV and watch not one, but two episodes of Lidia’s Italy. Currently, she is serving as my biggest inspiration in the kitchen, and in some ways it’s becoming a dream of mine to venture to the land of my ancestors, collect recipes from local artisans, and then write a best-selling cookbook. Yes, I might sound a bit crazy right now, but I think my recent trip to India did give me a push in the right direction. Anyways, moving on, after my morning television hour, I head to gym to workout, and then I drive back home, where my brother demands lunch. You would think that a simple lunch assembly would only take thirty minutes max, but with me I find myself beginning to prep the ingredients at noon and finally sitting down to eat by three. I guess life moves a little slowly at my house. After eating lunch, I set off to clean the pile of dishes I made because the last thing I want is my mother to come home and complain about the mess. By the time the dishes are clean, it’s already 5:30 pm, and it’s time to start planning dinner. Mostly my mother cooks it, but as it is summer, I volunteer to make it. We are usually dinning by 8:30 and then I plop myself again the couch to watch something else. By the time I come up to my room, it’s already ten at night, and I am way too tired to blog. I go to sleep telling myself that the posts will be done by tomorrow.

To a lot of bloggers, inactivity on the website might not seem like a big deal because one should only write a post when their heart is in it. Indeed, I wholeheartedly agree with that the statement, but lately writing is becoming a very liberating process for me. Sure I may only have only a handful of followers, but I don’t care. I write this blog for myself because I have so many tips to share and stories to tell. I love the feeling of accomplishment when I hit the “publish” button and then WordPress congratulates me because I reached a milestone number of posts. Of course the positive feedback doesn’t hurt either. For those of you who read, like, and follow this blog, thank you. I can’t even put into words how grateful I am for your support.

Okay, I think we have had enough of me getting emotional here; let’s get to today’s recipe. I thought I would keep it simple because at the end the day, I think we all are seeking for a little simplicity in our lives. Basil pesto is definitely one of those recipes. The Italians knew what they were doing when they created this incredible condiment teeming with the flavors of zesty garlic, fruity olive oil, salty and grassy cheese, and of course the sweet and minty basil. It’s texturally vibrant from the crunch of the toasted pine nuts, and as it is so easy to make, you can jump over this hurdle without falling on your face.

Recipe: Basil Pesto

Ingredients

  • 2 large bunches of fresh basil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup toasted nuts (I used a blend of pine nuts and walnuts)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt to taste

Method:

Pull the basil leaves of the stems and place them in a food processor or blender along with the garlic, toasted nuts, and cheese. Pulse a few times to chop up the ingredients. Then with machine running on low, stream in the olive oil slowly. Run the food processor/blender till pesto has formed into a cohesive mixture. Season to taste with salt.

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency:

This recipe will make a pesto that is on the thicker and pastier side. If you would like your pesto to be looser and a little more flowing, drizzle in some more olive oil.

Storing Your Pesto:

If you don’t plan on eating your pesto right away, then I recommend placing it on an airtight container and then putting it in the freezer. It will keep in the freezer for a couple of months and you can pull it out to thaw and then consume at your leisure.

What to do with Pesto:

After looking at this recipe, you will probably notice that practically anyone can make pesto, so the question remains as to what you actually can do with it. As I said earlier, pesto is originally a condiment and you can use it as a sauce to dress pasta or as a dressing over salad. If you want to venture beyond the sauce cloud, check out these cool suggestions

Pesto Recipe #1: Grilled Pizza with Tomato-Pesto Sauce, Fresh Mozzarella, and Kale

This pizza really has the flavor and texture of one that you would find in a rustic pizzeria in Italy, and good news is that it is very easy to make. Take you favorite tomato or pizza sauce, either homemade or from the store, and combine it with a couple of spoons of the pesto. Then roll out some fresh pizza dough. You can make it from scratch, or buy a good-quality one from the grocery store or a local pizzeria (I got mine from Whole Foods). Place the rolled out dough on a greased grill over low-medium heat. Once the pizza dough is beginning to form a couple of air bubbles, slather on the sauce and some pieces of FRESH mozzarella cheese (yes the fresh part is very important here). While the pizza is cooking, dress a big handful of kale leaves with olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Arugula would also work wonderfully here. About five minutes before the pizza is ready, sprinkle the dressed kale leaves over it so that they can wilt a bit. Remove the pizza from the grill and serve. You can have the crust as crispy as you like. Mine was one the charred side, but can I tell you, it took the flavor to a whole new level and transported me back to Italy, where the crust is thin and bursting with the flavor of the wood-burning oven and its worth is judged by the quality and not the quantity of ingredients in it.

Pesto Recipe #2: Pan-Fried Whitefish with Pesto and Lemon

This recipe is practically two steps and perfect for any busy weeknight. Take whitefish filets (tilapia, cod, and halibut would also work well here) and sprinkle them with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Spread one side with some pesto. Allow the fillets to sit and marinate in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Then cook them in an oiled pan over medium-high heat, a couple of minutes on each side, till the fish flakes easily and is cooked through. Serve with lemon wedges if you want an extra zing.

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