*Tip of the Day- live like the Italians do!*
Call it my insatiable desire to live and be all things Italy. What is it about Italian food (and I'm talking real Italian food- not spaghetti and meatballs) that conjures up these images of dining al fresco, distressed wood tables filled with good things to eat (olives, artichokes- fresh bread dipped in local olive oil, wine grown in your neighbor's vineyard), every time I think about it I want to book a plane immediately. And then a wee-little voice whispers that there is a single dollar in my wallet. *shucks*
But I try to live as Mediterranean a life-style as I can in Upstate New York. To me, that means eating as much as possible fresh, using olive oil to cook everything, enjoying bitter greens, cooked simply, working seafood into my diet, eating as little processed food as I can, and ignoring the fact that it is snowing right now.
Today is my father's birthday. My father is 100% Italian and has spend some time there when he was a young adult. Perhaps it's his time there stories that send me into revelry every time I eat antipasti. My father is my biggest fan (as a cook). I don't think I have ever made that he didn't say was delicious (not that I would agree with that critique). And so, in honor of his birthday, I am posting his all-time favorite, can't live without, condiment.
1 bunch fresh basil leaves (about 2 c.)
1/4 c. pine nuts
1/4 c. white wine vinegar (helps to retain color and provides acidity)
3-4 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper (freshly ground)
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2-3/4 c. olive oil
1/2 c. grated romano cheese (or parmesean-just not in the green can. Go to the cheese section)
You will need a blender or food processor (unless you want to do it by hand with a mortar & pestle). Put in the garlic cloves (whole is fine) and pulse until chopped. Then, pour in the vinegar to get the other ingredients started. Put in the basil leaves (no stems), pines nuts, and seasonings (not the cheese yet). Pulse until basil is chopped finely. Then, turn the machine of choice to the on setting and open the hole at the top. Drizzle in the olive oil slowly until very smooth in consistency and thickened. This has to be done with your eye. No real measuring! When you are happy with the consistency, stop the machine and stir in the romano cheese. Take out all the pesto and put into an airtight container. Before putting on the lid, drizzle the top with olive oil until there is a thin layer covering the entire top (this will prevent the pesto from browning).
And...voila! You have pesto! An extremely versatile condiment. Try it on fish, veggies, bread, pizza, chicken, steak, sandwiches, or, my dad's favorite- poached eggs!