Primo Pesto Possibilities

We recently purchased some beautiful little lamb loin chops at an amazing price, so when I came across these pesto recipes in Fine Cooking, I thought one of them (there were four) would make a perfect accompaniment for the chops. The smoky but bright flavor of charred bell peppers was a splendid complement and a pleasing pop of color for the grilled lamb chops, and our sides of herbed pesto baby potatoes and grilled asparagus rounded out a fabulous meal.

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Traditional pesto sauce, with its combination of olive oil, pine nuts, fresh basil, garlic and Parmesan cheese, is a healthy addition to any diet. While it is rather high in calories and fat, pesto offers a wealth of nutrients and a punch of flavor that many other sauces lack. When enjoyed in moderation, pesto can enhance your health and nutrient intake… a little goes a long way… Making pesto at home is simple and allows you to control the ingredients.

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One time saving step for the mixed herb pesto recipe (which we reduced by half) was the fact that I keep a stash of roasted garlic cloves in extra virgin olive oil in the fridge at all times. It comes in handy for many reasons, and in this case all I had to do was scoop out 1/3 cup, eliminating the first step altogether.

If you have some pestos leftover, there are any number of uses for them. Dip crusty, whole grain bread into pesto instead of slathering it with butter, as a condiment on a sandwich, drizzled over grilled veggies or served with raw veggies, layer in gratins or savory galettes, stir into your soup to add color and richness, whisk into a vinaigrette… as you can see the possibilities are endless. The pestos will keep, covered and refrigerated, for a few days; or even better, portioned and frozen.

Each recipe makes two cups, although we halved the herbed pesto—unfortunately so, as we absolutely loved it. Maybe one of the reasons was, I realized after the fact that I added 50 percent more cheese then called for. No matter, any combination that includes fresh herbs, nuts, garlic and good cheese can’t go wrong can it?

Roasted Yellow Pepper Pesto

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 lb. yellow bell peppers (3 to 4, depending on size) or 2 cups jarred roasted peppers
  • 1-1/2 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano, coarsely grated (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/3 packed cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped (about 1/2 oz.)

Directions

  • If using fresh peppers, roast over a gas burner, on a hot grill fire, or on a foil-lined baking sheet under the broiler, turning with tongs, until blackened or blistered all over, 6 to 10 minutes. Immediately put in a bowl, cover, and let steam for 15 minutes.
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  • Once cool, remove the skins, then split open and remove the stems, seeds, and ribs.
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  • Transfer the peppers to a food processor, and add the cheese, oil, almonds, garlic, and 1/2 tsp. salt.
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  • Process until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the parsley, and pulse until combined but with some green flecks, 4 to 6 times. Use right away, or cover and refrigerate.
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Mixed Herb Pesto

This is the perfect pesto to make when you have extra herbs on hand or an herb garden that’s working overtime. Delicious tossed with boiled or roasted potatoes, use it as you would conventional basil pesto. Though best made with mostly tender herbs, you could add a pinch of thyme or sage for some bold flavor. We used what we had on hand: parsley, tarragon, basil, and chives.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup olive oil; more as needed
  • 2/3 cup coarsely chopped garlic
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 packed cups mixed fresh tender herbs, such as cilantro, tarragon, dill, mint, and basil, leaves and tender stems (about 3 oz.)
  • 1 packed cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves and tender stems (about 1-1/2 oz.)
  • 3 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano, coarsely grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews

Directions

  • In a small saucepan, combine the oil, garlic, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cook over very low heat, adjusting the heat as necessary so that the oil just barely bubbles, until the garlic is soft but not brown, about 15 minutes.
  • Let cool completely, then transfer to a food processor.
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  • Add the herbs, cheese, and cashews. Process until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Add more oil to loosen, if necessary, and season to taste with salt. Use right away, or cover and refrigerate.

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By Lisa Lahey from Fine Cooking

 

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