The Fabulous Foodie

The Fabulous Foodie, hosted by Chef Aimee, is an online account of one amateur chef's kitchen successes and mishaps, recipe and product roadtests, and food experiences. Chef Aimee's philosophy is that Food Is Love, and her blog contains reflections on the connection between fabulous food, a happy marriage and solid-gold friendships.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Presto, Pesto!

There really is nothing like the scent of fresh basil. Nothing.

Well, okay... maybe the smell of chocolate chip cookies as they are coming out of a hot oven... but this it the HEALTHY food challenge, people! Seven days... seven recipes, remember? And I'm only on day two. And basil was handier than cookies anyway, because I grow it on my fire escape (hello, code violation!)

I grow Genovese Basil, which I think has the best and biggest leaves with the most fragrance and best taste. And it seems to keep its color best. It's so easy to grow... no green thumb required. Just be sure to pinch off leaves frequently, which actually encourages more growth. Like shaving your legs, ladies, the more you take it off, the more it grows back... can I get a witness???

And besides... did you know that in Italy, basil is a sign of love? When a woman puts out a pot of basil, it symbolizes that she's ready to receive her suitor. And Steve was coming home... so...

Basil it is.

Or was.

Now it's pesto... and at that, pesto made with the utmost of care and attention to not over-doing the olive oil, which while healthy, adds many "points" (that's Weight Watchers speak) to a serving. I'll give you my recipe in a minute... but first, I want to tell you what I did with it.

Now the normal idea is to toss pesto in with plain old pasta... which is all fine and good. But I decided to see if there was something more healthful. So to the whole wheat pasta variety I turned. Now about whole wheat pasta: unless you want one that tastes like gummy cardboard, or worse yet, has the texture of wet straw, you must buy Hodgson Mill Whole Wheat Pasta, which is usually available at any ol' grocery store... or you can do what I did, and patronize your local Italian specialty store. The one in my 'hood makes whole wheat pasta fresh, and it is delicious. I chose linguine.

I cooked up that whole wheat pasta (takes all of five minutes when it's fresh!), sauteed a few halved cherry tomatoes and a handful of shrimp in a bit of extra virgin olive oil, and tossed it all together in the pesto. I sprinkled a handful of toasted pine nuts over the top. Colorful, fresh, delicious, and healthy....

Well, not so healthy for Steve, who is allergic to shellfish. But not wanting him to eat McDonald's for dinner again, I made a little separate "saute and toss" for him with chicken instead. He loved it!

The best thing about pesto is you can make a whole lot of it at once, and since it's best eaten fresh, it's a great item to share. I bottled up half of my batch, tied the recipe around the top and dropped it off at a friend's house on our evening walk with the dog. Having had a rough week thus far, she was near in tears at the sight. Nothing like paying it forward with food, is there?

So here's the recipe:

Chef Aimee's "Pay It Forward" Pesto

Ingredients:
6 T pine nuts
6 large garlice cloves
4 ounces fresh basil (that's about 8 cups, very loosely packed)
6 T good parmesan cheese, freshly grated
6 T lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (seems like a lot, but this makes a whole lotta pesto!)
Salt and pepper to taste

Dry toast pine nuts until fragrant.

Place pine nuts and garlic in a food processer, mince. Add basil, parmesan and lemon juice, pulsing to form a paste. With machine on, stream in extra virgin olive oil until desired consistancy. (Note: it's the lemon juice that allows this to be a bit lower in fat, because you won't need as much olive oil. If you don't give a hoot, then good for you... just add a splash for a flavor zing and round out with all the olive oil your skinny ass can handle!) Salt and pepper to taste.

If you are planning to gift some of this pesto in keeping with the Food is Love tradition, and would like to keep the bright green color, add a plain old vitamin c tablet to the food processor... you can't taste it, and it will help keep the pesto a beautiful grassy green color.

Then pour it in a cool old jar, top it off, and include the recipe so that others can pay it forward too... after all, the four most selfish words in the English language are "It's my secret recipe."

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