I grew up in the 80's and early 90's in small blue-collar town called Elyria, Ohio (just about 20 or so miles south of Cleveland). It sounds cliche, but life was simpler then. It really truly was.
When you got to be a junior or senior in high school, and it was time for Homecoming or Prom, you went to the Spitzer Plaza Hotel for dinner beforehand. Back then the Spitzer was about the ONLY fine dining establishment around, and you had to drive out to the lake which was about a half hour to get there. Now this is a BIG DEAL because as I mentioned, life was simpler and NO ONE drove half an hour to eat anywhere in those days.
My friends and I would get real dressed up for our big date. Again, times were simpler. We didn't get our nails done. We didn't get our hair done. We didn't get our makeup done. But, we did do it ourselves and we were happy with that. We didn't know any different. We'd wear our fancy gowns, we always had fancy gloves up to our elbows, gaudy rhinestone jewelry, shoes dyed some neon color to match our dresses, and we were SET. Let me tell ya...we thought we were something else. We were like movie stars going to eat at a fancy restaurant.
I can still remember the first time I walked into the restaurant. I'll never forget all the blue velvet and also never forget that this was the first time I ever heard of pesto. None of us knew what the Pasta Pesto was, but we figured pasta was the safest bet so we ALL ordered it!
When the pasta came out and it was green we were surprised and interested. What was this dish sitting before us so different than anything else we'd had before? It felt so exclusive and fancy with the freshly grated Parmesan on top. Funny enough, I don't remember if any of us really liked it, but I DO remember that we all had a blast living it up drinking our Shirley Temples and eating our Pasta Pesto. Those were the days. No worries. No responsibilities.
Fast forward about 30 years and I'm making pesto in my own kitchen with ingredients that I always have on hand and basil that I grew in my bourbon barrel out back.
Pesto is no longer a specialty ingredient and times, well....they are certainly no longer simple.
I have tried lots of different pesto recipes over the years and this one is my all-time favorite. The pesto turned out perfectly balanced. THIS IS THE PESTO RECIPE!
Adapted from Parade Magazine
by Curtis Stone
Makes about 1 cup
2 garlic cloves
salt, to taste
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to cover the pesto
Note: I had SO MUCH fresh basil so I used 2 cups basil in place of 1-1/2 cups like the recipe was written. Because I used more basil I also used more oil, 1/2 cups per batch. Traditional basil pesto is made in a mortar and pestle and that is how Curtis makes his. Directions for both the mortar and pestle and food processor are below.
To make the pesto in a mortar and pestle: Mash the garlic, salt and red pepper flakes into a coarse paste. Ad 1 cup of the basil and pound until it is coarsely ground. Add the remaining 1/2 cup basil and pound until a coarse puree forms. Add the pine nuts and pound just to break them up. Add the Parmesan cheese and olive oil and mash until the nuts are coarsely ground and the mixture is well blended.
To make the pesto in a food processor: Pulse the pine nuts, garlic, sald and red pepper flakes together until the nuts and garlic are finely chopped. Add the basil and Parmesan cheese and pulse about 10 times to chop the basil. With the machine running, gradually pour in the olive oil.
Transfer the pesto to a container and float a thin layer of olive oil on top. Cover and keep refrigerated, but bring to room temperature before using.
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