Homemade Pesto, Two Ways

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I’ll never forget the first time I went to Italy, in 2002, and discovered “pesto genovese.” I had read that the Cinque Terre was the birthplace of pesto, and thus rationalized ordering gnocchi alla pesto at every meal for weeks. A classic basil pesto, made of just seven ingredients, it was somehow so much more delicious there than anywhere I had ever had it here – and remains more delicious than any I’ve had since (but for a couple trips back).

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I plant basil every spring, use it throughout the summer, and somehow have an abundance turning to flower in August.  As such, last week I decided to make a batch of pesto to freeze (one of my favorite uses for pesto, aside from just using it as a pasta sauce, is to use it as a garnish for minestrone soup all winter – freezing small amounts in an ice cube tray is the perfect way to have homemade pesto on hand year round).  And as long as I was in the pesto spirit, I tried a kale pesto recipe that had been on my to-do list as well. While the classic pesto is always delicious (although nowhere close to the Italian version), the kale version is pretty dang good too, and you can feel that much better about yourself.

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Classic basil pesto, Barefoot Contessa version: pine nuts, walnuts, garlic

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Blend in the parm, basil, salt and pepper, and then add the olive oil until it reaches the consistency you’d like. Ina calls for a fair amount of oil, I used less. I do wish I had blanched the basil leaves, as some recipes recommend – it helps remove any bitter flavor and helps the leaves maintain their bright green color as well.

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Basil Pesto, from Barefoot Contessa

1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup walnuts (you could use all pine nuts for a more traditional pesto, or all walnuts for a cheaper and healthier alternative)
3 tablespoons garlic, or 9 cloves (I used a little less)
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups good olive oil
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Place the pine nuts, walnuts, and garlic into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 15 seconds, then add the basil, salt, and pepper. With the processor running, slowly add the oil through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly puréed. Add the parmesan and purée for another minute.  Use immediately, or store pesto in the refrigerator or freezer with a thin film of oil on top (any exposure to air will turn your beautiful bright green sauce brown within minutes, it’s just heartbreaking).

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This kale pesto is pretty similar to the basil pesto recipe, only it uses all walnuts, and lemon juice to brighten it up a bit. I used the bagged kale from Trader Joe’s because I was too lazy to drive to another grocery store, but its a lot easier to cut out the stems when you’re working with whole leaves.  Here you definitely need to blanch the kale leaves, and remove the stems, or it will be too bitter.  Even if you aren’t a kale lover, this is a delicious and super healthy pesto that could be used as a sauce (thinned with water), a dip or a spread.

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Kale Pesto, from The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook

1 small bunch lacinato or Tuscan kale, stemmed and chopped (about 4 cups)
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (I used a little more)
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup lightly toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons water
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 to 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (or a little more)

Blanch the kale leaves for about a minute, then transfer to a strainer and run cold water over them to stop the cooking. Once the kale has cooled, squeeze out the excess water and set aside. You should have about a cup and a half of kale.

In a food processor, combine the garlic, parmesan, lemon juice, and walnuts and pulse to chop. Add the kale, water, and 1/2 teaspoon each of the salt and pepper and pulse to combine (I added a handful of basil here as well). Turn the processor on and drizzle in the olive oil until you get the consistency you like (I thinned it with a little too much water, which is why it looks like gross green water in the picture – I promise it tastes better than it looks).

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Friday Faves, Portland Edition

Happy August 9th, everybody! Today is my brother’s wedding day, so it’s an extra exciting day around here. I spent a lot of time in Portland over the past week, in preparation for the wedding festivities, so please enjoy some of my “Portland Faves” while I’m off to get my hair and makeup done (and have a mimosa):

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My all time favorite food cart, from the city that made food carts hip. My perfect lunch: “bambino” size Whole Bowl, hold the sour cream and olives, for $5. I’ve been saying for years that I wanted to bring WB to Seattle, but I recently discovered the “GFF” cart and its a pretty close second.

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Stumptown coffee at Petunia’s, my favorite vegan, gluten-free cafe in the Pearl – I didn’t realize when I ordered my Americano that “vegan” meant no half and half, just almond milk – only in Portland! (also: reasons I could never actually be vegan).

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Pre-wedding brow wax at Blush, my first stop whenever I’m in town.

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My Grandpa Nelson passed away fifteen years ago, but during his life he had the most amazing (and enormous) garden and orchard. Rows and rows of tomato plants, corn, carrots, potatoes, tons of berries, plums, apples, pears – I could go on and on. One of the saddest things to watch after his death was the deterioration of his garden. It’s only taken 15 years, but this year my dad planted his first tomato plants.  I even got to make a yummy pasta with the first red ones!

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Last Friday night I drug my mom, aunt and cousins to dinner at Simpatica, the restaurant where my parents hosted the rehearsal dinner for my brother’s wedding last night (blog post coming Monday, get excited).  I wanted to see the space, taste some wines, and do some last minute layout-planning for the rehearsal dinner, but as a perk we all enjoyed an outrageous four course meal. 1st: fried squash blossom stuffed with herbed chèvre on a buttermilk dipping sauce; 2nd: baby mixed greens, grilled haricot verts, blueberries, chopped almonds, red wine vinaigrette; 3rd: fennel-crusted Oregon Albacore, sautéed padron peppers, cherry tomatoes, corn, basil, green goddess dressing; 4th: peach crisp, crème fraîche ice cream.

I hope everyone is looking forward to something fun this weekend.  Wish me luck on (co) writing my best man speech – nothing like waiting until the very last minute! xoxo

Friday Faves

Well, we made it through yet another week – I’m so proud of all of us. Despite the fact that work has been crazy for me lately, I love how weekdays in the summer just feel like 4-5 annoying days between one weekend getaway and the next. I’m off to Leavenworth tonight for my soon-to-be-sister-in-law’s bachelorette party, and I’m looking forward to some wine and girl time – although a little nervous about the 97 degree temps. The food is made, my bags are packed (kind of), the car is gassed up – now all I need is for 5 pm to get here. In the meantime, some highlights from the week:

This morning got off to a great start as I was uncharacteristically ahead of schedule, so I had time before work to go to my favorite neighborhood coffee place. So much better than Starbucks, if only I could get it together to make it there every morning.

I attended what I thought was a charity golf tournament for Treehouse after work last night – I had been really stressing about my golf game (and golf outfit), so I was pleasantly surprised to learn it was actually just putt-putt. Still a gorgeous night on the (mini) golf course though!

You can’t tell from the sign, but these are called “dinnerplate” dahlias and they are the size of my head. I cannot wait until I have a yard large enough to plant some. Love dahlia season!

Delicious dinner at Cactus the other night – what is it about summer that makes me want to go to Cactus every night?

“1” and wave cookies for my little cous-nephew’s first birthday last weekend (cous-nephew is the technical term for one’s cousin’s baby boy, in case anyone was wondering:)). I still have a ways to go on my frosting techniques, but practice makes perfect, right?!

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope you’re all getting ready to head out somewhere sunny, too – make sure to pack your sunscreen!

Friday Faves

So I just did a quick count, and it turns out this is my 13th Friday Faves post. That means I’ve come up with 65 things to be excited about in the last few months – the better you know me, the more you realize that’s a pretty big accomplishment for my sometimes-not-quite-so-excited little self. And they haven’t all been pictures of my Glassybaby or J.Crew sale finds, even!

Tomato plants on display at Met Market – I would kill for more sun on my deck (or better yet, a full-sun backyard) so I could plant a “salsa garden” like Martha Stewart.

I’ve been cooking a lot of freezer meals for my grandparents – baking mac and cheese in muffin tins is a fun alternative to a normal casserole dish, as you can just pop them out, wrap them in foil, and stick pre-portioned meals into the freezer – easier to store and to use. For bigger portions/appetites, this “jumbo” tin works great. I used this recipe (healthy-ish and always a big hit), but you could do anything you like. If anyone has any good ideas for freezer meals – I have a lot of new moms to bring dinner to as well as Grandma and Grandpa – I would love to hear them in the comments.

So, this is happening. I’m officially a Game of Thrones nerd. Please no one talk to me or try to put anything on my social calendar for awhile – I’ve got something like 5,000 pages to get through.

Has everyone discovered Rent the Runway yet? I wore this Nanette Lepore pink and purple party dress and House of Harlow bangle to my brother and soon-to-be-sister-in-law’s “fiesta” couples’ shower last weekend and both were big hits. And on Sunday morning, I just shoved them into a pre-paid envelope and dropped them off at UPS. So easy and so fun!

For anyone who has ever wondered if you can mix vodka and champagne: the answer is yes. Maybe this was already obvious to you, but I had never thought of it. This fun cocktail (I wish I could remember the name – something mure?) was vodka, champagne, blackberry liquor and lime – it’s like a high-end version of the beer-vodka-crystal light concoction we used to make in college, except served in a champagne flute rather than a cooler.  Delicious and classy – is it time for happy hour yet?

So, that’s 61-65. And now we’re that much closer to 5 pm (or whenever your weekend officially starts – I hope its sooner).  Wishing you all a fabulous Friday and a sunny weekend !