Archive for March, 2009

How I learned to stop worrying and love pesto

Up until a few days ago I was an avowed pesto hater. I totally hated on some pesto. Don’t ask my why or try to convince me of its merits, I just did not like the stuff.

But then a few days ago I was making pizza (including homemade dough). And I realized I’m also not a huge pan of tomato sauce on pizza. It’s ok, but doesn’t really float my boat. (I’d been using wing sauce for a BBQ chicken variety previously, but it was time to branch out). I came to the unfortunate conclusion that pesto was a likely appropriate substitute and that I would have to overcome my negative feelings towards it. Of course, integral to this is realizing I would never ever love jarred pesto and I would have to make my own – luckily, making your own pesto is incredibly easy.

(Aside – yes, I’m well aware it’s NOT summer and that basil is NOT in season. Nor is the plastic package of basil I picked up local or environmentally friendly. I am not perfect people, sometimes I eat unethical basil. Deal with it).

So, I whirled my shameful unseasonal not-local basil in a food processor with the requisite pine nuts (threw some walnuts in as well, because I had some leftover toasted walnuts from another application), garlic, parm and olive oil. The raw garlic taste was very pungent but I figured it would mellow out a bit during baking (it did). I used pesto as the pizza sauce and topped it with chicken, (jarred) roasted red peppers, chopped olives, fresh mozzarella and grated parm. And know what? It was really freaking good. We actually ate the leftovers I saved, that’s how good it was.

I had some left over pesto which I saved. (another aside – I always, ALWAYS save left over food. We almost never, NEVER eat or use it, much to my dismay – I hate being wasteful). I assumed it would sit in my fridge til it was time to clean it out and I had to toss it in the trash (I know you can freeze pesto, but it just didn’t seem worth the effort for the amount I had). But, inspiration hit the other night. Usually, I plan meals for the week and buy necessary ingredients for each meal every week. I’m not really great about throwing meals together from pantry staples, even though I keep my pantry amply stocked – I’m usually just too tired at the end of the day to be creative. But I was especially tired the other night and didn’t feel like making the quinoa salad I had planned (it’s really bad if you can’t get your stuff together to freaking make some quinoa).

So, of course, nothing left to do but make a frittata. Bonus, I got to use some veggies sitting in my fridge that desperately needed to be used. I sautéed some bell pepper and asparagus (from Mexico, I know, I’m going to hell, please don’t tell the food police on me, I didn’t know it was from Mexico til I got home) and scrambled some eggs with grated parm and cubed mozzarella left over from pizza making. I mixed in the leftover pesto with the sautéed veggies and then poured the eggs over and baked til puffy. And it was delicious, pesto and all. (Served with some greens not long for this world dressed simply with red wine vinegar and good olive oil). I even ate the leftovers for lunch! (With lots of hot sauce, of course). And I was very proud of being industrious and using things in my fridge that needed to be used.

So, I think the moral of the store is: I actually do like pesto. But not as a pasta sauce – I need to be a background player providing flavor in a larger dish, where it’s not the main player. Also, I’m really bad at this eat seasonally, eat locally stuff. Mostly because I’m lazy. But I do plan on trying to grow my own herbs at the new homestead so maybe that will help. I have no more plans to use basil until this summer, when it’s in season and plentiful. Other good ways to use pesto not as a pasta sauce? I hear it’s good slathered on fish – there’s probably a way to make a good veggie dip out of it as well. An I bet there are some sandwiches that would be made awesome with a dab of the green stuff (hey, today is St. Patty’s day, how appropriate!)

Oh, and for you old school folks, here’s how to make pesto “like an Italian grandma.” For your modern young things, here’s a cilantro “pesto” twist.