Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Presto Pesto!

On Saturday night I enjoyed pesto and pasta at Rob and Sherry's home. We had delicious Chicken Picatta and sauteed summer vegetables. They inspired me, so I relieved my basil plant on the deck of most it's leaves and made pesto yesterday - and then I mentioned on facebook I was looking for ways to use it.

And the floodgates opened. Well, two floodgates. My friend Joni from Illinois and my brother Linney from Tennessee made several comments each.

And I decided all their inspiring words needed to be shared because this is something I want to incorporate into this new life of mine. For so many years I've cooked for volume and filling stomachs cheaply. The dinner table seemed to expand at will and the diners were not picky. I'm really good at that kind of cooking, but it's just not that called for at the Shostak house these days. It's kind of hard to put that to the side. Nothing more satisfying than making pancakes for a dozen teenage boys, macaroni and cheese from scratch for college kids, or a chocolate cake for a bunch of chocoholic girls. But Rob and Sherry and Joni and Linney have inspired me! So - hope this blog inspired you too!

From Joni - We became kind of famous at Olivet (university) for Paninis. We put out all the ingredients and this is what they made with them. We got the multigrain Le Brea bread and sliced it on the diagonal. They put the pesto on the inside with ham, pepperjack che...ese, roasted red peppers, and arugula. I made a compound butter: 2/3 butter, 1/3 olive oil, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, parmesan and romano cheese, and a bit of salt because I use unsalted butter. They put that on the outside and grilled it in the panini press. All the guys that ate here put panini presses on their wedding lists!

A dollop in homemade minestrone or other suitable soup is good, too. On bruschetta (grilled bread) with other toppings, like "fresh" mozzarella and tomatoes. Traditional to toss with pasta, but I don't "love" that. Think i'm going to try it again with just a little and then more parmigiano reggiano to taste. One more--can put a little on chicken or fish as a sauce or put some under chicken skin and roast. Think of it as a spice blend...

Oops, one more. Can use it to season sauces, especially homemade maranara. Along the same lines if you're making a pan sauce can add a little to whatever you're deglazing the pan with--wine or stock.

Yeah, I'm back. Thought of a couple of new things I'm going to try. Larry makes a tuna salad during the summer with fresh dill and basil. Delicious. I'm thinking some pesto might make a great winter one. Would work for chicken salad, too, of course. And I think it would be delicious in tuna casserole. Especially if you made your own bechamel sauce.

AND - I'm excited about this one, although I don't know how well it will work! Put pesto on raw chicken breasts. Could let it marinate for a while. Then bread it. I'm thinking dredge in seasoned flour, egg, flour again and pan fry 'til crsip. Know I'm going to try it with zucchini, too. Pork chops and basil? Not sure.
Another thing I'm going to try this year is make some kind of pesto like thing that has parsely, sage, rosemary and thyme in it. I freeze my pesto and it would be interesting to see if this could work for saving those herbs, too. I dry them now, but a "poultry seasoning" pesto might be fun.

From Linney: A couple of notes here, you don't have to use pine nuts to make pesto. Pine nuts sell for around $40 a pound! You can use peanuts! I made it last week and used mixed nuts and it turned out great. I've read that cashews or almonds make really good pesto too!

On a cold fall or winter day take a artisan loaf of bread, something like sour dough or french bread and cut a couple of slices. Then make a souped-up grilled cheese sandwich with the pesto and a slice of mozzarella . Use olive oil instead of butter on the outside to give it a real Mediterranean flair. Then serve with a hot bowl of your favorite tomato soup and it is like Heaven on Earth!

Grill a chicken breast, a minute or two before you remove the breast from the grill put some pesto on top of it and cover with a slice of mozzarella or swiss cheese. When the cheese melts remove from the grill and serve. For mushroom pizza that's completely off the chart either get a boboli bread or other pizza crust (you could make your own) then spread the pesto on the crust. Put on shitake, portabello, button and/or any other kind of mushroom you like and a little mozzarella and parm cheese and bake.

Or you could make a pesto, tomato and cheese pizza

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