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The Besto Pesto

I always have basil in or around the house. Today, I decimated my indoor Aerogarden (below)  that was filled with basil a few moments ago. But luckily, it’s the time of year to start growing bunches of it in my garden.

I use basil in so many dishes, but mainly for pesto, which I make often. It contains all of my favorite ingredients, so it’s not surprising.

Of course, pesto is generally considered a sauce for pasta.  But I’ve made a number of things with it, including soup. Today, two sandwiches that work really well with the strong taste of basil.

The vegetarian sandwich on the left is a ciabatta roll, with pepperoncini, tomatoes, arugula, roasted red peppers and pesto aioli. To make the aioli, just mix a couple tablespoons of pesto with the same amount of mayonnaise.

The sandwich on the right is built on focaccia with pesto, mozzarella, roasted red peppers and a thin grilled chicken breast.

To make a nice, quick soup, just cook some chicken breast in chicken broth, add some cannellini beans and season it with the amount of pesto you’d like to taste,  Add some spinach or kale if you like, and top with a little Parmesan cheese.


INGREDIENTS

½ cup pine nuts

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 small garlic clove (I used 5-6)

¼ teaspoon sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

2 cups basil leaves

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for a smoother pesto*

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


METHOD

In a dry skillet, on low, toast the pine nuts. You’ll be tempted to turn the heat up to toast them faster, but they burn very quickly, so let them take their time, turning them every so often. By the way, don’t buy your pine nuts in the supermarket. They are ridiculously expensive and come in tiny little jars or packets. You can get large bags of organic pine nuts at Costco or Amazon for much less.

In a food processor, combine the pine nuts, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper and pulse until well chopped.

Add the basil and pulse until combined.

Drizzle in the olive oil a little at a time and pulse until combined. Add the Parmesan cheese, and pulse to briefly combine. For a smoother pesto, add more olive oil.

When you store it in the fridge, put a thin layer of olive oil on top. It keeps it fresher and it won’t brown.

*A note about the olive oil. This is when you want to bring out the really good stuff - the oil you wouldn’t cook with. I recommend Frantoia.



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