|Sun Dried Tomato Pesto|
Of all the tasty spreads, pasta sauces and dips one can prepare in the kitchen, pesto has to have one of the best time to value ratios. With a food processor/chopper, it is ridiculously quick to prepare and super tasty once finished. 10 minutes is all you need to make a quick batch of tasty basil pesto. It's not as quick as 6 Minute Abs, but you'll sweat a lot less. It's also very likely that, with the exception of basil, you already have everything on hand to make a simple pesto right now.
One of the best things about the traditional pesto recipe is its overall versatility. Say you don't have any pine nuts? Then sub them out for almonds, walnuts or pistachios. What about other flavors to better match other flavors of a meal? Add in other herbs, such as parsley or cilantro, to the pesto if it's to be used on a dinner plate in some way.
Notes on IngredientsThe sun-dried tomatoes can be bought either dehydrated or oil packed. I prefer dehydrated so that I stay in control of the type of oil and seasonings used. Though, out of the bag, the dehydrated type is far too tough to use so you'll need to soften them up by steeping them in boiling water for several minutes. If you're making a soup later on, or doing anything involving a pan sauce, hang on to the water that's left behind as it has some valuable flavor locked in it.
As far as sourcing the basil goes, buying loose basil from a smaller market (or from the bulk bins in the produce section at Whole Foods) tends to be the freshest and the best value. The small plastic containers of herbs sold at large supermarkets is usually the highest price, per ounce, around. In Chicago, I've found that Asian food stores have the best deal anywhere. Broadway Supermarket, a Vietnamese market in Uptown, sells large packages of basil, good for about 2-3 cups of leaves, for around $2.
Anyone that's done homemade pesto before knows that the basil loves to quickly turn brown when left out. Why? Bananas, avocados, apples and basil all contain an enzyme called polyphenol oxidase (PPO) that turns brown when exposed to oxygen. For most fruits, a little acid from a lemon or lime can prevent this, but that's not a flavor I like in pesto. To prevent this in basil, briefly blanch your basil leaves in boiling water for about 10 seconds and quickly transfer them to an ice bath. Any longer and you risk breaking down the delicate leaves to a point that you'll have a pasty pesto.
The sun dried tomato pesto recipe below is a lot like my basic hummus recipe in that it's really just a starting point for you to make your own. Experiment with the ratios and ingredients to find what works best for you. Change it up based on other items you're serving. Unlike bigger cooked items that take longer to prepare, you have a little of freedom here to experiment because the recipe is scaled down so much.
Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
A simple, delicious pesto that can be prepared in 10 minutes or less
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 3/4 cup
- 1 Tablespoon Grated Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
- 2 Cloves Garlic
- 2 Cups Basil Leaves
- 4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 3 Tablespoons Toasted Pine Nuts
- 10 Sun Dried Tomatoes
- If you aren't using sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, bring 1 cup of water to boil in a microwave safe measuring cup. Remove the cup and place the tomatoes in the water to steep for at least 5 minutes
- (Optional, but recommended) Toast the pine nuts for a few minutes in a toaster oven or pan over medium high heat
- Pulse the garlic first in a food processor with a pinch of salt and some ground pepper
- Add the basil and pulse the machine until all of the leaves have been chopped. You'll likely need to use a spatula and work down the sides of the bowl
- Add the oil, cheese, nuts and sun dried tomatoes. Process until fully integrated. You'll want to taste it along the way to tweak the cheese and oil depending on your preferences.
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