Friday, September 24, 2010

It's a Pesto Fest-o!

And you're invited!

Although it's technically fall, it still feels like summer in Chicago. Like go running in a tank top and get sweaty walking to the L kind of hot. So in honor of the lingering heat and to use up the rest of our basil plants, we made chicken pesto pasta for dinner last night.

We bought these basil plants at the beginning of summer and they've served us quite well. Basil for pesto, in bruschetta, in omelets, on sandwiches, and sprinkled on top of pasta. It's like Bubba talking about shrimp in Forest Gump. Boiled, broiled, baked, coconut shrimp, and on and on. The large plants were from Home Depot (there's also oregano in the bucket) and the smaller ones were from a local farmer at the Green City Market in Lincoln Park. I'm not sure what variety they are, but would recommend the Home Depot plants because the leaves are bigger and the plants seemed to grow faster. It probably cost about $15 for all of the plants (HD and Green City), dirt, and the HD bucket. Overall, the plants totally paid for themselves since we enjoyed basil the whole summer.  

Anyways....when it comes to cooking, I follow recipes the first couple of times and then Rachael-Ray-eyeball-it or improvise after that. So I'll give you a good recipe to use and add a few of my twists.

Pesto sauce
Recipe adapted from "Joy of Cooking" 1997 edition
Enough for 1 pound of pasta

-2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
-1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, roughly chunked up
-2 medium cloves garlic, peeled (or 4 or 5 if you're a garlic junkie)
-1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
-1/3 cup pine nuts

Process to a rough paste in a food processor the basil, half of the cheese, garlic, and the olive oil. Be sure to scrape down the bowl to be sure that everything is incorporated. The pesto should be a thick paste. Add the rest of the cheese, pine nuts, and a little more olive oil if the pesto seems dry. Give everything one last whirl in the food processor. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour over a bowl of pasta, add some grilled chicken, and you have dinner!

-I like my pesto on the chunkier side, so I don't go crazy processing the cheese or pine nuts.
-Use immediately or store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
-If freezing, add the nuts and cheese after thawing.
-Pine nuts are super expensive right now due to a worldwide shortage. Therefore, don't break the bank by getting them just for this recipe. You'll survive without them.
-Pine nuts have a lot of oil in them, so be sure to store them in the freezer.

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