Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pesto Presto

What is it about pesto?  If I see something on a menu that has pesto in it I'm immediately drawn to it.  The mere thought of pesto makes me think of summer and delicious dishes and spreading pesto deliciousness on crackers/toast/pita/my finger...whatever.  It is so good.  Garlic?  Oh yeah.  Fresh basil?  Be still my heart.  There is not one thing about pesto that is bad which is why it so, so good.

What I love about pesto is that it is easy to make and incredibly forgiving.  You can make pesto out of anything.  I think the most traditional recipe involves garlic (I love you, Garlic), basil, pine nuts,  parmesan cheese and olive oil.  Not much to complain about with this combination of delightful ingredients, but I will mention that pine nuts are ridiculously expensive.  I typically replace the pine nuts with it's very unglamorous cousin, the walnut.  To be perfectly honest, I can't really tell the difference in taste, but my wallet thanks me.

Other substitutions are often made to save some calories.  Traditional pestos require copious amounts of oil (though olive oil is very good for you), cheese and nuts.  Now, these ingredients bring much to the table in terms of flavor but they also pack on the calories and fat grams.  I'm totally on board with the good fat found in olive oil and nuts, but I enjoy eating pesto with a spoon and even too much of a good thing is a bad thing.

My recipe for pesto serves it's purpose well in that it gives me that garlicky, basil spread but saves my wallet and my daily calorie count.  Remember, pesto is forgiving.  Add more of whatever flavor makes your heart sing and go ahead, eat it with a spoon.

Summer Pesto

Combine in food processor:
3-4 garlic cloves
huge handful of fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup of shelled pistachio nuts (roasted and salted) or whatever nut you have handy
2 ounces of grated parmesan cheese
1 zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch slices
pinch of salt and pepper

Pulse in food processor till well combined and thick.

Stream in oil (olive, canola, whatever you have) until pesto is desired consistency.  You don't need as much as you think.  The zucchini helps stretch the recipe and only mildly affects the flavor.  I can't taste it.

I've frozen pesto in ice cube trays for easy additions to pastas and sauces.  If you are going to store fresh pesto, I suggest you put it in a deep container (so you have less surface area exposed to air) and cover the surface with oil to avoid the pesto turning brown.  If it does turn brown, by all means, use it anyway, it will taste great, it will just be brown.  Simply turn off the lights so you can't see and eat it with a spoon.  It is so, so good.