Sunday, July 26, 2015

Pesto

Basil Plant

Basil is one of the great culinary herbs. Many Italian recipes contain basil. It has been grown for many thousands of years all over the tropical zones.
Basil was first mentioned in English writing in the mid-seventeenth century and in American literature about 100 years later. Basil is considered sacred in the Hindu cultures, believed by many to be a favorite of their gods. In some cultures basil is a sign of love and devotion between young couples.

Cook's notes: Rain and warm weather has provided just the right conditions for my basil plants to grow. This pesto recipe was quite easy to put together. Any extra can be refrigerated in a screw type jar up to one week. 
This week's postings will feature recipes using pesto. 
Homemade Pesto
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cloves roasted garlic
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil or lemon olive oil
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice (optional but recommended)
  • 1/2 tsp. each salt and fresh ground pepper
Directions:
  • Blend the basil, pine nuts, cheese, and garlic together in a food processor or blender. Pour oil in slowly while still mixing (or a little at a time, then mix, then more oil, then mix again, etc). Scrape down the sides, then add lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Pulse until everything is blended together and relatively smooth. Taste and add more salt/pepper if desired.
  • Make ahead/storing: Store leftover pesto in a jar, tightly seal, and refrigerate for up to a week. Freeze the pesto for up to 2-3 months. You can freeze it in greased ice cube trays and thaw small portions at a time.
Cooking Tips::
  • Instead of basil, try other greens like spinach or arugula.
  • Instead of pine nuts, I love using walnuts. You can also try pecans, pistachios, or almonds. For a nut-free pesto, try edamame, pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, or sunflower seeds.
  • Other tasty pesto variations: try adding your favorite herbs like cilantro, mint, or parsley. Add your favorite spices like cayenne, ground ginger, or paprika. Or add a dash of your favorite hot sauce.
Pesto Zucchini and Corn Quinoa Salad
A light healthy zucchini and corn quinoa salad in a bright lemon-y basil pesto dressing that makes good use of summer produce. It can be served as a side or a main dish.
It serves 4 and recipe adapted from closetcooking.com.
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1- 3/4 cups chicken broth 
  • 1 TB. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/3 cup sweet onions diced
  • 2 cups zucchini ,diced
  • 1 cup corn, fresh or frozen
  • optional 1 (15 oz.) can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes, patted dry on a paper towel 
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 3-4 TB basil pesto (homemade or store bought)
  • 2 TB. lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
Directions:
  • Bring the water and quinoa to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the quinoa is tender and has absorbed the water, about 15 minutes, remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes, covered.
  • Meanwhile, prep the zucchini and corn, heat the oil over medium-high heat, add the zucchini, garlic, onions and corn. Saute until tender, about 12 minutes, before removing from heat. Place veggie mixture on a paper towel lined plate to cool slightly.
  • In a bowl add sauteed vegetables, tomatoes, drained chickpeas, quinoa and toasted pine nuts. Mix in lemon juice and pesto. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Chill one hour before serving. 

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