As the summer winds down and herb patches are in full bloom our thoughts turn to the ways in which we can preserve their brilliance for a dreary winter day. The concoction of a salacious sauce is a simple, yet sensational way to make that happen. The king of such simplicity is Pesto. Like all great loves, variations abound, each a recipe for making the best of the seasons fresh flavors.
The cornerstone of traditional pesto is basil. Thought to have first been cultivated in India, many cultures have been intoxicated by it’s charm. Once used by Indians to swear oaths in court upon. It is used in the preparation of holy water in the Greek Orthodox church. For Mexicans and Italians this fragrant herb is a source of love. In Mexico it is coveted in the hope of returning a lover’s roving eye. Italians display their love by fashioning a sprig of basil in their hair while courting. Indeed it was in the Northwestern corner of Italy, the stretch resting along the Mediterranean where basil arrived and flourished settling in to a revered status.
Ligurians take their pesto seriously. While many Italian cooks no longer have the luxury of time to use the traditional mortar and pestle and lean towards a blender or food process to make their masterpieces. Pesto without basil is unheard of. Confraternita del Pesto is a society based on that portion of the Italian Riviera. It’s mission is to “Uphold standards and the honor of pesto against imposters and dilettants.”
In upstart New England we cross the line and make the most of the pesto’s basic premise with delicious results. Here are some creative recipes from local experts:
- Pesto alla Genovese from Tim Wilcox and Caroline Pam
- Ryan Voiland's Freezer Pesto
- Hickory Dell Lower Fat Pesto
- Green Garlic Pesto by Red Fire Farm
- The Kitchen Garden's Cilantro Pesto
- Chive and Mint Pesto from Terra Americana
- Roasted Garlic and Pesto with Axler's Smoked Salmon Chowder
15 Ways to Make the Most of your Pesto
- As a spread for crackers. Paticulary good paired with chevre.
- As a base for bruschetta.
- As a simple sauce for pasta.
- Flavor soups with it.
- Use it to a a new twist to marinara sauce.
- Give your potato and pasta salad some pizzazz.
- Drizzled on poached eggs or mixed into scrambled.
- As a coating (along with bread crumbs) for fish fillets of pounded chicken breast.
- As a substitute for condiments like mustard of mayonnaise on sandwiches.
- Put the mint jelly and applesauce away, pork and lamb pair well with pesto.
- Mix with fresh lemon juice to dress your tomato and green salads.
- Baste on meats, pork, poultry and fish before grilling.
- Terrific on grilled, broiled and steamed vegetables.
- Add it to a gratin for new take on a timeless classic.
- On pizza in stead of the old faithful tomato sauce.
Find it Locally:
If you don't have the fortune of an herb garden in your back yard. The vendor's at the Springfield Farmer's Market each Tuesday afternoon offers a host of farms that can offer a host of options for making pesto with your own distinct flare.
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Photo Credit: The Poetry of Life