Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Pesto with Shrimp Pasta

Pesto - made May 10, 2011 from The Professional Chef, 7th edition, from the Culinary Institute of America (book #104)

My first basil harvest
Last month, I had noted that I planted some basil along with a few tomato plants so I can make my own tomato sauce and pesto sauce.  It hardly seems possible but in just a few short weeks, my largest tomato plant has already got a few tomatoes growing and I snipped my first basil harvest yesterday.  I never thought I'd like gardening and I still don't consider myself a "gardener" but I have to admit there is something satisfying about nurturing plant life and literally reaping the fruits (and even veggies) of your labor.  I also planted some strawberry plants and sweet corn seedlings and so far they seem to be flourishing.  You can't imagine how exciting it is that I haven't killed any of them yet.

The basil plants are growing taller and, like most novice gardeners, I ended up planting them too close to each other so once they start growing, I could look like I've got a basil jungle growing.  Fortunately, they're growing tall as opposed to wide so as long as I stay on top of the growth, I think it'll be fine.  Not to mention it gives me an excuse to make small batches of pesto on a regular basis.  Plus I love the smell of basil.

The first tomatoes have started to grow

For my first harvest, I turned to one of my few cooking behemoth books, The Professional Chef, from the Culinary Institute of America.  Don't ask me why I invested in such a huge book that I've never used and am not likely to use that often unless I turn into a cook (doubtful).  Maybe because I went to the CIA and ate some of these recipes made by the chefs on the hot side.  Maybe because this was back in the day when I just kept buying cookbooks.  In any case, it's coming in handy now for a quick and basic pesto recipe.

Pesto is pretty easy to put together when you have a food processor.  I used chicken broth in place of half the olive oil just to cut the fat and calories slightly and it seemed to work okay. I used the sauce with some pasta and shrimp and it was probably one of the easiest things I've actually cooked.  I'm starting to see why people get into this gardening stuff.  Growing the basil was fun and harvesting, aka snipping off the leaves, was easy.  I've also learned you can make the pesto and freeze for future use so you don't have to eat it all at once.  Now that's going to come in really handy.

2 ounces/60 grams basil leaves
3 tablespoons/45 ml toasted pine nuts
¼ ounce/7 grams garlic paste
¼ ounce/7 grams salt, as needed
2 to 4 fluid ounces/60 to 120 ml olive oil (I used half olive oil, half chicken broth)
2 ounces/60 grams grated Parmesan cheese

1.      Rinse the basil well, dry thoroughly and chop coarsely.  Transfer to a food processor or mortar and pestle.  Grind the basil, pine nuts, garlic and salt together, adding oil gradually, to form a thick paste of a saucelike consistency.
2.      Adjust the seasoning with salt and add the Parmesan cheese as close to serving time as possible.


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