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Talking SCHOP! Versatility of pesto

Kysha Harris | 2/20/2014, 1:43 p.m.
will admit it: I … love … pesto!
With blistered cherry tomatoes Photo by Kysha Harris

Man, I hope everyone is hanging in with all of these snowstorms we are having. Ms. Mother Nature is a trip! Just when we think we are out of it, she comes with another plan.

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Topping white fish filet with pesto panko

I hope your freezers, fridges and pantries are filled with some great ingredients with which to cook the chill out during these winter days. I am certainly burning it up in here, especially with my new Crock-Pot in tow.

I will admit it: I … love … pesto! There I said it. The recipe is so simple, and it can be made with any combination of herb, nut and hard cheese. Add garlic, olive oil and a little citrus zest and juice, and you have something that is a perfect sauce for pasta or condiment for fish, meats, vegetables, eggs and more. Make a batch and you can put it on a cracker for a sniggedy-snack.

I made a batch of pesto last week for a client. He has had great success with weight loss so I didn’t want to just give him the fatty cheese-nut-olive variety of pesto. Plus, I like being very liberal with my pesto, so how can I have the same effect without all of the additional fat? Add thawed frozen spinach to the mix and this pesto becomes a haven for flavor and nutrients.

Here is my recipe, which is a little garlic heavy, but really, create your own mix. Perhaps use sun-dried tomato, Spanish Manchego cheese and walnuts or aged gouda, lemon thyme and pecans. I could go on, but you have fun with it. It’s just food!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups or more fresh basil leaves
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed of its liquids
  • 1/3 pound Pecorino Romano cheese, roughly chopped
  • 4 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan over low heat until lightly browned
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • Zest of one lemon
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, more if needed
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

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Ready to go in the food processor

Place basil, spinach, cheese, nuts, garlic, lemon zest and juice in a food processor. Process until a coarse paste forms. With motor running, add oil; process until smooth and creamy or until desired consistency, about one minute. Season with salt and pepper.

You can store the pesto in ice cube trays covered with plastic wrap or in an appropriately sized container. I press a little plastic wrap on the surface before covering to prevent oxidation, keeping that green bright!

Now if you are using on pasta:

Cook desired amount of pasta in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente, according to package instructions. Reserve some pasta water; immediately drain pasta and return it to the pot. Add desired amount of pesto to pasta; toss, adding reserved pasta water a little at a time until sauce is thinned slightly and coats pasta (you may not need all the water you reserve). Serve, sprinkled with additional cheese, if desired.

Eggs? Either beat pesto into eggs before scrambling or add on top finished eggs. Top a grilled/broiled steak with a dollop of the good stuff. Stir a heaping tablespoon into freshly steamed rice for a delicious side dish.

One of my favorites is to mix the pesto with breadcrumbs or panko and top a simple white fish filet, like snapper, and bake in a 400-degree preheated oven for 10 minutes until golden. The possibilities are endless really, and for as long as it keeps (when stored correctly), pesto can be the savior when you are in a meal pinch. Go for it!

Happy eating and thanks for reading!


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Kysha Harris

Kysha Harris is a food writer, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service offering weekly and in-home entertaining packages. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations? Email her at kysha@iSCHOP.com, follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SCHOPgirl, on Facebook or chat with her on Instant Messenger at AskSCHOP, Monday-Friday, 6-8 p.m. For even more recipes, tips and food musings, subscribe to her blog.