Pesto solves awkward garden dilemma


What to do when basil is ready to pick but tomatoes are not

By Bill Colvard - [email protected]



If you think boneless, skinless chicken breasts are bland and boring, pep them up with some pesto. This recipe is a workhorse, easy enough for a weeknight if you marinate the chicken before leaving for work in the morning or it’s fancy enough for company. It’s also very forgiving. If you don’t have cream, use half and half. It will still be delicious. In the winter when fresh basil leaves are hard to come by, don’t worry. It will still be good.


Bill Colvard | The News

Basil and tomatoes are one of the most enduring love stories in the history of food. They complement each other so well and for most of the summer, they are available at the same time. But in the very early summer, there is a time when the tomatoes just aren’t ripe yet and the basil is growing so fast, you can almost watch it happen. So close and yet so far away.

This garden dilemma can only mean one thing. It’s time to make pesto. As wonderful as basil and tomatoes are together, basil can stand on its own very nicely if you’ve got enough of it and you pound it up beyond all recognition.

The word “pesto” comes from a Genoese verb that means “to pound” which is exactly how pesto was made in the past. In fact, the Latin root of the word also evolved into pestle, which was formerly the preferred instrument of pounding.

Pounding enough basil leaves with a mortar and pestle to sauce up the pasta for dinner must have been a labor of love back in the day but thankfully, a food processor now makes quick work of the job. Add a salad spinner to dry the basil leaves after washing them and it’s easy to make up enough pesto for the whole year since it freezes beautifully.

Given plenty of sun, basil grows and grows and the more leaves you pinch off to use, the bushier the plant grows back. Slack off with the pinching and the plant will flower and then be done for the year. Since it’s in your best interest to keep pinching off leaves, making pesto is a good way to use a lot of them up. Then just freeze any excess pesto for the colder months.

Technically speaking, the word “pesto” can be used for any sauce that is made by pounding and Pesto alla Genovese (Genoese pesto), is the one made from basil but the variations are endless. Instead of basil, you can use parsley, cilantro, arugula or even sun-dried tomatoes for lots of other kinds of pesto.

Pine nuts can be replaced with walnuts, pistachios, almonds or other nuts. Walnuts, particularly, are delicious when substituted for pine nuts in basil pesto. They give it a rich, earthy taste and are a good deal less expensive than pine nuts.

If your food processor mostly gathers dust because you think cleaning it up is more work than the work it saves you, pull it out and make some pesto. You’ll be safe in the knowledge that no matter how big a pain it is to wash up, it’s better than pounding leaves in a stone bowl with a stick.

Pesto Genovese

4 cups packed basil,

1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1⁄2 cup finely grated Parmesan

1⁄4 cup pine nuts

3 tbsp. finely grated pecorino

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Coarse sea salt, to taste

Process basil, oil, parmesan, pine nuts, pecorino, and garlic in a food processor until smooth; season with salt.

Chicken and pasta with pesto cream sauce

This recipe is a workhorse, easy enough for a weeknight if you marinate the chicken before leaving for work in the morning or it’s fancy enough for company. It’s very forgiving. If you don’t have cream, use half and half. It will still be delicious. in the winter when fresh basil leaves are hard to come by, don’t worry. It will still be good.

2 large chicken breasts, sinless and boneless

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tsp. dried basil

2 cloves garlic

salt and pepper to taste

12 0z. package penne pasta

1 cup Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup cream

1/3 cup basil pesto

3 plum tomatoes

fresh basil leaves

Combine olive oil, dried basil, garlic, salt and pepper to make marinade. Soak chicken in it, refrigerated, for a few hours. Cook pasta by package directions. Bake chicken breasts at 400°F. until done all the way through. Drain pasta and add Parmesan cheese, cream and pesto. Slice chicken breasts into thin slices and place on top of pasta with sauce. Garnish with tomatoes and fresh basil.

Pesto Rosso (sun-dried tomato pesto)

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1⁄2 cup toasted blanched almonds, chopped

2 tbsp. rosemary leaves, minced

2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

2 tsp. sugar

1⁄2 tsp. Aleppo pepper or paprika

20 pitted oil-cured black olives

10 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Process oil, almonds, rosemary, vinegar, sugar, Aleppo, olives, tomatoes, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped; season with salt and pepper.

Pepita and cilantro pesto

Toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) give this Mexican-inspired pesto a warm, toasty flavor.

2 cups packed cilantro

2⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1⁄3 cup toasted pepitas

1⁄3 cup finely grated parmesan

2 tbsp. fresh lime juice

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Pulse cilantro, oil, pepitas, parmesan, lime juice, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped; season with salt and pepper.

Pesto Calabrese

1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 1⁄2″ cubes

2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste

1⁄4 cup olive oil

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced

1⁄2 small yellow onion, minced

2 plum tomatoes, cored and minced

1⁄2 cup ricotta cheese

1⁄3 cup packed basil

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place eggplant in a colander and toss with 2 tsp. salt; let sit for 20 minutes. Drain eggplant and dry on paper towels; set aside. Heat oil in a 10″ skillet over medium-high heat; add pepper and onion, and cook, stirring often, until soft and lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add eggplant, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and add ricotta and basil; puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Pesto di Noce (walnut pesto)

It’s not unheard of for Italians to use walnuts for pesto, they lend a rich earthiness to the sauce. They are also considerably less expensive than pine nuts.

1 1⁄2 cups packed basil

1⁄2 cup olive oil

1⁄3 cup toasted walnuts

1⁄4 cup finely grated pecorino

1⁄4 cup finely grated parmesan

2 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped

2 cloves garlic

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Process basil, oil, walnuts, pecorino, parmesan, tomatoes, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped; season with salt and pepper.

Pesto di Pistacchio (pistachio pesto)

Pistachio pesto is rather sweet, making it great with roasted vegetables.

1½ cup packed basil

1 cup olive oil

1 cup dry-roasted pistachios

½ cups packed cilantro

¼ cups finely grated parmesan

1 tsp. lemon zest

3 cloves garlic

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Process basil, oil, pistachios, cilantro, parmesan, zest, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped; season with salt and pepper.

If you think boneless, skinless chicken breasts are bland and boring, pep them up with some pesto. This recipe is a workhorse, easy enough for a weeknight if you marinate the chicken before leaving for work in the morning or it’s fancy enough for company. It’s also very forgiving. If you don’t have cream, use half and half. It will still be delicious. In the winter when fresh basil leaves are hard to come by, don’t worry. It will still be good.
http://mtairynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/web1_chicken-pesto.jpgIf you think boneless, skinless chicken breasts are bland and boring, pep them up with some pesto. This recipe is a workhorse, easy enough for a weeknight if you marinate the chicken before leaving for work in the morning or it’s fancy enough for company. It’s also very forgiving. If you don’t have cream, use half and half. It will still be delicious. In the winter when fresh basil leaves are hard to come by, don’t worry. It will still be good. Bill Colvard | The News
What to do when basil is ready to pick but tomatoes are not

By Bill Colvard

[email protected]

Nominate your favorite cook to share their love of food with readers of The Mount Airy News.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699, on Twitter @BillColvard.

Nominate your favorite cook to share their love of food with readers of The Mount Airy News.

Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699, on Twitter @BillColvard.

comments powered by Disqus