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Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Chapped Ass Pesto Sauce

Lilly asked me for a pesto sauce recipe, so here goes.

First of all, I have to admit I rarely use a recipe for anything. I consider a recipe to be a "suggestion" that's open to interpretation and modification. I encourage you to do the same.

Sure, I follow a recipe the first time I make something, but then I change it to suit my taste or to work with whatever ingredients I have (or work around whatever I don't have).

So, here goes.

Pesto sauce essentially involves two ingredients: chopped fresh basil and olive oil. Pretty simple. Other ingredients are fresh garlic, choped nuts and salt. Don't heat or cook the pesto.

If you like nuts, use 'em. If not, or you're allergic, don't.

Chapped Ass Pesto Sauce (About Two Servings)

Pine nuts seem to be the traditional nuts, but I don't much care for them. They have very little nutty tast. I prefer walnuts or pecans.

1. Meaure about 1/4 cup or 50 mL nuts and chop them (food precessor, blender or the old-fashioned way with a knife).

2. Get some fresh basil, not dried. Wash the basil and pull the leaves from the stems. Dry them. (I put them in a salad spinner, but simply patting them with a towel will do.) Cram the leaves into your measuring device--enough for about 1/2 cup or 125 mL. (I realize it's tough to measure leaves like this. How much do you cram? But measuring chopped basil would be very hard. You'd have basil bits all over your counter.)

3. Next, toss the leaves into your blender or food processor. Add about 1/4 cup or 50 mL olive oil. Chop at BRIEF intervals, being sure to stop every few seconds to see if the leaves are chopped enough for you. Some people like them finelychopped, others prefer to still be able to see leaf strips.

4. If you like, add some garlic. Don't add dried garlic; it tastes like cardboard. Take one medium-sized toe/clove of garlic, smash it, peel off the skin and chope it finely or use a garlic press. Add the chopped garlic to your chopped leaves and oil.

5. Add the chopped nuts to the other ingredients. Next add a pinch or two of salt and pepper, if you like. Briefly chop that just enough to mix everthing.

6. Examine the results. If the sauce is too thick for your taste, add a tad more olive oil. You can always add oil, but you can't take it out once its already in there. This "adjustment" stage is important, because if the basil you have was dry or limp, it won't be "juicy" and may require more oil. Really fresh basil that's firm and has no brown spots will be plenty juicy.

Yes, that sounds naughty. No, I didn't mean it to.

7. Serve over pasta. As a "light" sauce, pesto goes best with thin pasta, such as linguini or angel hair, but you're certainly within your rights to eat it on whatever the hell you want.

8. Grate some fresh Parmesan cheese over your plate or bowl. Sure, you can add grated cheese to the mixture in the food processor, but I prefer to experience the difference in texture that's more pronounced with you add the cheese at the last: dry cheese on the oily sauce. It's somehow better that way.

Sometimes I add a few sprigs of flat-leaf (Italian) parsley to the basil, because I like the punchy fresh green taste parley has.

If you know of any modifications to this recipe, let me know. I'm always up for something new.

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