Herbs, spices, & seasonings

Keeping in pace with the abundance of the summer season, it’s a perfect time to gather up a bunch of fresh herbs and local produce. A lot of home cooks are so thrilled when they get to their local farmers market and see all of this great stuff. With all the excitement they fill their baskets on impulse, race home and can’t wait to start cooking…and then they get home and realize they have no idea what to do with half of this stuff…
Let me offer a few ideas that are both simple, delicious, and don’t take much time to prepare at all.

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Traditional basil pesto
For me nothing pairs better with summer tomatoes than fresh basil. Making pesto is an easy way to get the most bang for your buck when it come to basil. This is a pretty standard recipe and can be interchanged with many other herbs. Spinach, arugula, cilantro, even kale can be substituted. Nut allergies? Or don’t want to shell out the cash for pine nuts…no problem, you can omit them all together or sub with almonds, walnuts, pecans, just don’t forget to toast them briefly to really elevate the flavors.
This recipe will make about 2 cups of pesto.
Here’s what you’ll need; keep in mind the measurements are based on weight, not volume, except for liquids.
Food processor,
4 oz of fresh basil leaves
5 oz pine nuts, lightly toasted (put nuts in a sauté pan, dry, over medium heat for a couple of minutes, until you smell the aroma, quickly remove)
1oz garlic, minced
8 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the pine nuts, parm, and garlic, purée in food processor until a paste forms.
Next, add the basil. Pulse until the basil breaks down and mixes into the garlic paste. Try not to overwork the basil. Our goal is a bright almost neon green color, over mixing will cause the natural oils to leech out of the basil.
Slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream while the food processor is going. The stream will help the olive oil incorporate into the pesto, making it emulsify. Finally add a little kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper.

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I love to drizzle this on a simple caprese salad, or like in the picture, caprese skewers, with fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, drizzled with some balsamic vinegar.
Fresh peaches can also be used in place of tomatoes.

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