There’s nothing like a fresh batch of pesto to imbue pasta, meats and steamed vegetables with bright, herbaceous flavor. Most people are familiar with the classic pesto, a pureed mix of basil, pine nuts, crushed garlic and cheese (usually Parmesan) moistened with a splash of olive oil. But these ingredients, though delicious, can be pricey and difficult to find. The good news is, there are other ways to prepare this zesty sauce from scratch, in less time and with less money spent at the store. If it’s green and a vegetable, chances are you can turn it into pesto. So if your potted basil didn’t fare as well as you’d hoped this summer, never fear: Broccoli, arugula and other greens make great substitutes. Here are five easy takes on the classic pesto to invigorate your favorite summer dishes.
Pick up a bunch (or two!) of this fragrant herb while it’s in season. And don’t worry about how you’ll manage to use it all—there are just so many delicious ways.
Go the traditional route and whip up a mean pesto sauce. Use as a condiment or as a sauce for fish or pasta dishes.
Infuse your favorite olive oil with basil. It only takes a few minutes!
Having a few guests over? Whip up simple finger foods using fresh basil leaves.
Traditional pesto is a vibrant blend of basil, pine nuts, garlic, Parmesan or Romano cheese and olive oil. The term “pesto” comes from the Italian word pestare, which means to pound or crush (you might be familiar with the mortar and pestle, the tools often used in the preparation of pesto). Pesto has countless applications in cooking – it can be tossed with warm pasta or gnocchi, swirled into mashed potatoes, added to steamed vegetables, and spooned onto toasted bread (bruschetta). You’ll never run out of ideas and it’s a quick cook’s best friend. Keep basil pesto in your refrigerator-arsenal for last minute meal solutions. Read more
Basil pesto is excellent on practically anything – chicken, fish, beef, pork, vegetables. And it’s so easy to find prepared, if you don’t have time to make it from scratch you can still enjoy it. But what about other pesto varieties? Wouldn’t a dollop of Sage-Walnut Pesto on pork chops be nice in the fall? Or Cilantro-Almond Pesto with steak or chicken? How about refreshing Parsley-Lemon Pesto with fish or shellfish?
Check out my three recipes for pesto. The base for all three is the same (1 cup leaves, 1/2 cup nuts, 1/2 cup broth, 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, salt and pepper). The broth keeps the pesto nice and light. Once the basic ingredients are blended, I adjusted to create unique and sublime concoctions. I added ginger to the cilantro and almonds, Parmesan to the sage and walnuts, and lemon to the parsley and pine nuts. Take note, you’ll want to make big batches – these pestos last for at least one week in the refrigerator and they’re not just great for main dishes, they make excellent sandwich spreads and dips for crackers and vegetables.
Liven up your summer menus, without gobs of extra calories and fat. Here are five totally different sauces bursting with seasonal flavors — each with 5 ingredients or less.
I had the pleasure of traveling back to my culinary school stomping grounds last weekend — Providence, Rhode Island. While there, we decided to grab a glass of wine at Al Forno restaurant and, of course, have one of their famous pizzas. With all the fresh summer herbs in season, I’ve been on a serious pesto kick lately, so I was super excited when the waiter announced that night’s “special” pizza was a kale pesto pizza! Yep, pesto made from kale. I love, love, love kale and I especially love pizza — so what could be better? Well, my expectations were blown away. The pizza, of course, was phenomenal, but the kale pesto was the star of the show. Mild and smooth, this was one of the best pestos I’ve ever had and so unique to boot.
Chances are you won’t find garlic scapes anywhere but your farmers’ market or CSA box. They’re often passed over because people may not be sure what they are. Take advantage of this local food delicacy, but act fast, the curly green shoots are only available for a short time.