I also felt constricted by the format of my previous posts. Hence, the two week silence.
And now I come to you with pesto! Pesto is one of my all time favorite things to make at home. To be honest, I had never really thought much about pesto and its components until I studying abroad in Italy. I was lucky enough to take a class on pairing food and wine. We spent our class time preparing traditional Italian recipes and tasting copious amounts of Italian olive oil, cheese, and yes, wine. I loved it. And it was during this time that my obsession with pesto began.
Pesto hearkens from the Liguria region of Italy, specifically Genoa. Typically, it is a combination of basil leaves, olive oil, garlic, pecorino cheese, and pine nuts. Pretty much all you need to do is combine the aforementioned items in a food processor and pulsate until it is the appropriate consistency (adjust the amounts to your preferences). With my little 3 cup KitchenAid which happens to be an upgrade from my previous 1 1/2 cup Toastmaster, I generally fill it with 2 or 3 handfuls of basil leaves, 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, 1 handful of toasted pine nuts, a couple grinds of salt and pepper, 2 heaping handfuls of pecorino cheese, and several turns of olive oil.
The more often I made pesto, the more I started to experiment with different ingredients. I discovered that I preferred a blend of arugula and baby spinach. Aside from the milder taste, it doesn't turn brown as quickly as basil, and it's cheaper! It is also easy to switch out the pricey pine nuts for whatever nuts you happen to have on hand. Almonds, walnuts or even pecans are a great substitute, and I would love to try hazelnuts or pistachios.
Pesto is generally used as a pasta sauce, but it is also a great spread for sandwiches. Nothing adds interest to a plain old grilled cheese quite like thick slices of tomato and homemade pesto! It can be kept in the fridge for about a week or last for months in the freezer (one of my roommates actually froze pesto in ice cube trays so she could easily use small amounts). A thin layer of olive oil helps prevent browning. So dust off your food processor and try your own spin on pesto.