Yes, I can cook. At least I’m improving on a steady basis. If you didn’t know, I recently found my birthmother after a 35 year search (that’s another story, entirely) and learned that I am half Italian, part French and German. Go figure. Guess that explains my trying to learn to speak Italian when I was in my 30’s and a life-long unrequited love for anything French. German? I became enamored with steep-slope Rieslings while I cruised the Mosel this summer aboard AmaWaterway’s AmaLegro.
Last year, while aboard the MSC Splendida, I wasn’t feeling too good so I had to miss the trip from the port of Civitavecchia to Rome. My first visit to Italy and I missed Rome. There is an upside, however. I felt well enough to wander around Civitavecchia long enough to find a hole-in-the-wall purse shop where I stocked up on gifts.
Suddenly I was hungry, probably a result from inhaling the intoxicating Italian leather fumes. I was directed to walk a few blocks to a small local restaurant. It was here that I had my first official meal in Italy. Sitting alone among smartly dressed business people, young families with their children and a few female BFF’s, I savored every grain of the creamy mushroom risotto and each crunchy bit of fresh baked bread.
Thus began my quest to become a better cook, with a focus on Mediterranean cuisine and culture. I haven’t tried risotto yet, but I have mastered a few gallons of a decent Limoncello. Jumping borders into France, I haven’t tried to make an authentic aioli, but my ratatouille is pretty darn good. Now my family is getting into it, too.
Tonight, my daughter picked what looked like a huge amount of basil from the backyard and announced that tonight, I was to make pesto. Not one to turn down garlic or basil, I acquiesced.
Here’s my pesto recipe, slightly modified from the Food Network’s version. We added it on top of pasta and sautéed chicken, but you can put a dollop of it on nearly any food that goes well with garlic. This recipe can be doubled.
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic
1/8 cup pine nuts (walnuts can be substituted)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Fleur de sel (or any coarse sea salt) and fresh ground pepper to taste
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesiano Grana or Reggiano cheese
Combine the basil, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. I suggest using a small processor with this recipe but a regular size processor if you double the recipe.
While pulsing, slowly add the olive oil. Process until all ingredients are well blended. Add salt and pepper to taste and pulse until smooth. Stir in the grated cheese or sprinkle on top.
This can be frozen in an air-tight container. Drizzle a little oil over the top before freezing. Thaw and stir in cheese.
Try this on linguine or any pasta shape that can “hold” the sauce on it. Use the garlic sparingly since it’s raw, not cooked. This is one of my favorite summer sauces, fresh from the herb garden.