Fresh Basil Pesto… the perfect prescription to doctor up pasta, grilled chicken or salmon, or as a dip!

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Our basil and parsley have been growing out of control. Okay, that’s sort of an exaggeration. But it has been doing quite well since we planted the starter plants. We made it our goal to harvest and use everything from our small “farm” this year because we let everything die or go to waste last summer.  It’s true.  We had roma tomatoes, basil, key limes, and peppers growing up, down, and sidways, and we left it to die.  We always have so much fun with planting the starter plants, but rarely do we ever enjoy the fruits of our labor. It’s silly.  But I think it’s pure laziness, and partly because who wants to harvest stuff when it can get up to 115 degrees F during the summer months.  Blech.  But this year is going to be different.  I can feel it.  I intend to eat every darn thing that grows this year, whether I get sick of it or not.  Again, another exaggeration.  But you get the point.

Anyway, getting back to this post.  So what not a better way to use up the basil and parsley than to make a pesto. Especially since I had extra parmesan, lemons, and garlic lying around from my latest obsession with caesar salads. We also always have an abundance of a variety nuts in our freezer for salads, desserts, and what not.  Basil pesto is our favorite prescription to doctor up pasta, over grilled chicken or salmon, as a sandwich spread, and as a dip for our caprese “salad” skewers for party hors d’oeuvres.

What’s your favorite way of using pesto?

Fresh Basil Pesto

3 cups fresh basil, packed
1 cup fresh Italian parsley, packed
2/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more for tasting
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt, to taste

In a medium sized pan over medium heat, toast pine nuts until they get fragrant. Watch these carefully as these can get toasty fragrant to burnt very quickly.

In a food processor, combine the basil, parsley, pine nuts, garlic, solive oil, and lemon juice. [But not the parmesan cheese. We’ll get to that in just a little bit.] Pulse until the mixture has a smooth, but thick paste-like consistency.

Poor the basil mixture into a medium-sized bowl, and fold in the parmesan cheese. Mix until the cheese has been thoroughly incorporated.  Add more lemon juice and salt to taste. But trust me, you really won’t need anymore salt after this because of the saltiness from the parmesan cheese. However, do add more lemon juice because it really livens up the pesto sauce. But then again, we like lots of lemons in almost everything we eat 🙂

Makes 3 cups of pesto.

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Tomatillo Chile Verde Sauce

One of my partner’s only vices is that she loves Mexican food, and that’s just an understatement.  When I say love, I mean an obsession, an infatuation.  My partner made a statement that she was no longer go to eat Taco Bell with her friend, who is also a teacher right next her classroom.  I call them double trouble.  They both enjoy Mexican food.  If it’s not burritos and tacos from the Mexican restaurant down the street from their work place, then it’s Taco Bell.

I’m on this healthy food, and diet kick, which was inspired by my partner (she asked that I give her credit for this).  She, too, is on a diet kick and eats healthy for the majority of the time.  Well, I just about died when I heard they went to Taco Bell for lunch yesterday.But my partner rationalized it saying she ordered a chicken taco off their “Fresco menu.”  I don’t care how fresco it is off their “Fresco menu.”  It’s still Taco Bell.  It’s still fast food.  It’s still unhealthy.  So I made a deal with my partner that if she would stop eating Taco Bell, I’d make her some healthy Mexican food.  Deal.  Done.

I wanted to wean her off of Taco Bell, and restaurant-made Mexican food, and replace it with healthy homemade Mexican food.  So I set off to the grocery store for some items, and the first item on my list was green enchilada sauce.  I headed to the “Asian / Hispanic” aisle, and found a big can of the green enchilada sauce.  I looked at the nutritional content and freaked out.  For a serving size of 1/4 cup contained 330 milligrams of sodium.  WHAT?!  Exactly.  I immediately put the can down, got on my iPhone, and set out for a search on a healthier, homemade chile verde sauce.  I thumbed through a few recipes, and found one that was suited to my liking.

I immediately started on the recipe when I got home from the grocery store.  The recipe was extremely easy to follow, and didn’t require a lot of time to make.  Once the ingredients started to simmer, the fragrant aroma of chile verde sauce filled the entire house.

For those who like a good chile verde sauce, make it yourself.  It was so easy, a caveman… nevermind.  You get the point.  It’s not time consuming.  It’s healthy.  And it’s not laden with sodium like a can of store bought sauce.  Just make it.  Enough said.

Tomatillo Chile Verde Sauce (adapted from Our Best Bites)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, minced
8 cloves garlic, minced
3 roasted, peeled green chiles (New Mexico, Anaheim or California or poblano chiles)
3 jalapenos (remove the seeds if you would like a mild sauce)
2 pounds tomatillos, husked and quartered
1/2 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
5 cups chicken broth

Place tomatillos and peppers under a broiler for about 5-7 minutes to lightly blacken the skin. Remove from oven, let cool enough to handle. Remove the skin from the green chiles, not the tomatillos.

Combine tomatillos, green peppers, jalapeno peppers, and cilantro in your blender.  Process until smooth.

In a large saucepan or stock pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat.  Saute onions and garlic until tender and fragrant.  Pour the tomatillo mixture over the onions and garlic.  Add chicken broth, salt, pepper, and cumin.  Simmer for about one hour, or less, depending on the consistency you want.  I like the sauce thick, so I usually turn the heat to a medium to medium-high heat for about one hour.

Serve over tacos, as an enchilada sauce, inside burritos, or simmer with some pork shoulder for chile verde carnitas.  Yum.