Basil, pungent and sweet, waits for me again this week at the markets. If I were not afraid of falling into a dull pattern I might do again what I did last week: turn it into green, glorious pesto.
[Though maybe I will, anyhow …]
I like to think pesto is healthy, but perhaps it’s not; it is, certainly, very simple: a bunch of basil, washed and the stems removed; a few tablespoons of pine nuts; some olive oil; a fair amount of Parmesan cheese and a dash of salt all pureed together in a food processor. I like it especially on spaghetti or angel hair pasta, with a sprinkling of cheese and chopped basil on top. Last fall I made a version with faux Parmesan — for my dad — and it was OK, but if you’re not vegan, I’d say stick with the regular version.
The other night when I served up heaping bowls of wonderful, delicious pasta-with-pesto, I also made a quirky little salad. At Nopa a few weeks ago our “taste from the kitchen” was a small sugar snap pea, each, dressed in a light coating of olive oil and served with a tiny bowl of sea salt. Now, I don’t know where they got their sugar snaps, but they were to die for (no, really, they were). Crisp-tender with a satisfying crunch, it was a travesty to have only one; our plate emptied quickly and some members of the party were seen to glance forlornly at the kitchen while awaiting the main meal.
So, being that I was left wanting more after that initial wee bite, I had to try my hand at making them myself.
What I did was: bought a nice, organic bunch of sugar snap peas at the market, then brought them home for a bath. Afterward, I blanched them in boiling, salted water for one minute, then put into a bowl of ice water (I did taste a few along the way, yes). While they would have been quite good on their own, I had also picked up some breakfast radishes and I thought they would pair well; I cut these up very thinly and then mixed the sugar snaps with the radish slices in a bowl with a few drips of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt.
It was so good. And I’ll have to make it on its own in the future because I was so busy mooning over the salad I didn’t really give the pesto appropriate attention. Next time.
Summer Market Pesto, adapted from willams-sonoma.com
4 Tbs. pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
2 to 3 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as
3/5 cup grated Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
In a food processor, combine the pine nuts and garlic. Process to chop coarsely. Add about half of the basil and process to chop coarsely. Add the remaining basil, the parsley and olive oil and process until a thick green sauce forms. If the sauce is too thin, add more basil; if it is too thick, add more olive oil.
Add the cheeses and season with salt and pepper. Process briefly. Pour into a glass jar or other container and top with a thin layer of olive oil to prevent the surface from discoloring. Cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. Makes about 1 1⁄2 cups.