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Playing With Pesto

Updated: Jun 24, 2018

I must confess… I’m a cook and not a baker. I measure in generalities and cook with what’s fresh and on hand.

A recipe is simply “permission to play” and that’s what happened with our Pesto Tasting on June 15th.  Pesto is a sauce traditionally made with pine nuts, basil, olive oil and parmesan cheese. It can be served hot or cold on bread, pasta, vegetables, fish, and meats. I began with Ina Garten’s Pesto and cooked with what was available in the community herb garden. I broke down Ina’s recipe into the following general ingredients and followed her very precise directions. Any additional seasonings were tossed in with the salt and pepper.

Basic Pesto Recipe

1/2 cup NUTS (your choice)

9 cloves garlic, chopped

5 cups fresh HERBS (your choice), lightly packed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups good olive oil

1 cup freshly grated CHEESE (your choice)

Place the nuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds. Add the herbs, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the cheese and puree for a minute. Use right away or store the pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of olive oil on top.  (Quoted from Ina’s recipe link above)

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When we did the Pesto Tasting I had the following combinations of ingredients for each of the four pestos we tasted:

Basil Pesto (Ina’s recipe using all pine nuts and no walnuts)

NUTS: Pine nuts

HERBS: Basil

CHEESE: Parmesan cheese

Cilantro Pesto

NUTS: Pine nuts

HERBS: Cilantro plus Italian parsley (if needed)

CHEESE: Parmesan cheese

Added the following with the salt and pepper:

                 Juice of a lime

                 1 heaping T. chili powder

                 1 T. cumin

                 1 tsp. dried crushed red pepper

Rosemary Pesto

NUTS: Pine nuts

HERBS: 3 cups lightly packed fresh parsley leaves

                 2 cups lightly packed fresh rosemary leaves

CHEESE: Parmesan cheese

In place of the 1 1/2 cups good olive oil I used:

                 4 T. unsalted butter, melted

                 1 1/4 cup good olive oil

Mint Pesto

NUTS: Almonds, toasted in dry pan on stove for 5 minutes and cooled

HERBS: Fresh mint leaves, lightly packed

CHEESE: Crumbled feta

Added the following with the salt and pepper: 

                 Zest of a lemon

                 Juice of a lemon

I hope you enjoyed the Pesto Tasting in June (2017). We are planning another tasting on Wednesday, July 19, 2017, from 5-7 pm. Stay tuned for more information on what we’ll be sampling!

Until next time-


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