In the previous post, I did what journalists are taught not to do. I “buried the lead,” which is reporter-speak for saying that I put the important stuff too far down.
And what was the important stuff? Namely that pesto can be used on more than pasta. I’m not sure why we Americans tend to limit it to linguini, capellini and the like, but really, pesto is a concentrated burst of summertime flavor that can be added to grilled fish, grilled chicken and even steak. As I wrote before, the thought of green pesto on steak might seem disconcerting, but it’s not too far from Argentinian chimichurri (click here for a good chimichurri recipe from Gourmet).
At my cooking school last week, Sara Foster also used pesto on slices of crusty bread, which were toasted and topped with heirloom tomato slices and mozzarella cheese, a great appetizer.
I’ve gotten a few questions about why my pesto recipe doesn’t include parmesan or nuts. I do use parmesan — “parm-a-lot” was a nickname in my old cooking club because I used so much of it — but I wait to add it when I’m tossing the noodles and pesto before serving. If I’m using pesto more as a sauce for chicken or steak, I prefer the texture without cheese. Lastly, I’ve been told that pesto freezes better and lasts longer without the cheese, though I admit I haven’t done a taste test.
As for the omission of nuts — pine nuts are traditional, but you can use other kinds, too — I’ve found that I prefer the more intense flavor that comes from just the basil, garlic, salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil. Experiment and see what you like best. After all, that’s the beauty of cooking at home. You can make things just the way you like them.
P.S. Here’s the recipe again, in case you missed it the first time
2 cups basil, washed and dried
2-4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Put all ingredients into a food processor and puree, adding more oil if necessary.