Summertime… Yeah it’s Summertime… Having some Pesto

I’ve been busy beyond my normal level of busy in the past few months, so I’ve been a bit neglectful.  I apologize, but here me out: Hubs had a crazy grad school schedule despite graduating in May (lol) then he started a new job then a new new job. I became Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certified and sifted through massive convoluted Access Database code to rehab a poor database. We got rid of our pool which had reached the put up or shut up moment in its life. I redesigned all our garden beds and have officially decided to convert the garden to a fully edible landscape.  Forgiven? (I’m going to assume someone said yes…)

So, as I sat at work this afternoon dreaming of dinner I kept thinking about the basil plants that were getting too big and would be in danger of bolting soon.  Oh and what was I going to do with all that tarragon?  Well, I wanted a caprese salad with tomatoes, mozzarella & basil, but I had too much basil for a delicate preparation. I figured a semi-warm summer afternoon would be the perfect time to make the season’s first batch of garden fresh Pesto. So, pesto with a tomato mozzarella salad was the final decision

Tomato-Mozzarella Salad w/ Pesto Shells

Basil-Tarragon Pesto Shells w/ Tomato-Mozzarella Salad w/ Garlic Spread on Toasted Bread

Tomato-Mozzarella Salad

1 cup mozzarella balls, bite size, sliced in half
1-1/2 pints grape tomatoes, sliced in half
2 cloves garlic
1 pinch salt
2 tbsp white wine vinegar

About an hour before you are going to eat…. In a glass bowl with a cover (or you can just cover with plastic wrap) place mozzarella balls & tomatoes. Grate garlic cloves on a fine grater or use a garlic press. Add the garlic to the tomato mixture with a pinch of salt.  Cover & set aside. Every 10 minutes or so, shake the bowl so the juices get distributed evenly. Right before serving add white wine vinegar and shake again.

Basil-Tarragon Pesto

1 lb. pasta
3/4 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
4 cups Basil leaves (not packed)
2 cups tarragon leaves (not packed)
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lemon. small, juiced

Put the pine nuts in the pot that you plan to cook your pasta (…unless you have a free dishwasher on staff). Turn the heat to medium-low. You are going to toast the pine nuts in the pot so keep sniffing the air until you start to smell the toasted popcorn-like smell and the pine nuts are just starting to brown.  I wish I could tell you how long it takes, but I keep my pine nuts in the freezer so times vary for me.

NOTE: Pine nuts have low self-esteem. If you look away they will burn. Keep an eye on them and move them around the pan with a wooden spoon every few minutes or so until they are ready.

Take the pine nuts out of the pan and set aside.  Add the water to the pot to boil and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box.

NOTE: You can use any pasta you want for this, but I figured shells would be easier for The Kid to pick up with the halved tomatoes.

Add the garlic to your food processor while it’s running. When all the garlic is chopped (and pressed against the side of the food processor), add the pine nuts. Stop the food processor and add  the Parmesan cheese, the basil & tarragon leaves and a pinch of salt. Process until it starts forming what looks like a ball rolling around the processor. Start pouring in the olive oil slowly. Watch carefully. You only want to add enough oil to stop the “ball” from rolling around the food processor. (You are going to use pasta water later to thin it down to the exact consistency you want. So, don’t add all the oil if you don’t need it).  Squeeze in the juice of a lemon, process, then begin the test & adjust.  Taste for more lemon juice, salt, etc.  Adjust as needed.

Add the pesto to the dish you plan to serve the pasta in. When the pasta is cooked, reserve about a cup of the pasta water. Add the pasta to the pesto and stir them together. (I think it’s easier to add the pasta to the pesto with a slotted spoon or spider than to drain the whole thing in a colander first.)  After you mix the pasta & pesto, add some of the pasta water if you want thinner pesto.  Adjust to your taste.

Serve immediately topped with the tomato-mozzarella salad and toasted bread topped with some warmed Roasted Garlic Mayo


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