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The Best Ever Pesto Recipe

Photo: BasilGardening.com

As summer wanes, I’ve been gifted with a bumper crop of basil, which is wonderful because I have the most awesome pesto recipe ever! With the weather here heating up beyond tolerable, school starting, and going back to work after a summer off, I’ve had little time or energy for much of anything, so it’s nice to be able to make something quick, without turning on the stove, with herbs fresh from the garden.

The traditional way to serve pesto in Italy’s Cinque Terre region, is with pasta cooked with potatoes and green beans. But if pasta isn’t your thing, or if you don’t want to turn the stove on AT ALL, pesto is fabulous on grilled chicken or fish and is perfect tossed with assorted grilled bell peppers or roasted potatoes. Freeze any leftovers in an ice-cube tray for winter or nights when you don’t have time to cook. 1-2 cubes per person is a good bet. Be sure and put the pesto cubes in a freeze zip bag — they’ll keep about 3 months. Buon appetito!

Trenette con Pesto alla Genovese (serves 6)

Ingredients

50 fresh medium basil leaves

2 garlic cloves

1 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Parmesan-Pecorino Romano blend

2 Tbsp. pine toasted pine nuts

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

5 1/2/ tsp. sea salt

1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1 Tbsp. creme fraiche (if creme fraiche is unavailable in your area, substitute soft cream cheese)

1/2 lb Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, quartered, and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices

1/2 lb. green beans cut into 1 inch lengths (I use haricot verts, but regular green beans will do. If using regular, you may want to use only 1/4 lb)

1 lb dry trenette or linguini

Place basil in bowl of food processor and chop fine. Add the garlic and continue chopping. Add cheese and pine nuts and process until the nuts are chopped fine. Gradually add the olive oil while the motor is running. Add 1/2 tsp. salt and the pepper and pulse to combine. Add the creme fraiche and pulse to combine. Do not over process — this whole procedure should only take a few minutes. (If you are making ahead, pour the pesto into a bowl, cover with a thin layer of olive oil to preserve color, and refrigerate until ready to use. The pesto should be used within one day of preparing or frozen.)

Bring 5 qts. water to a boil and add remaining salt. Add the potatoes and return to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. About 2-3 minutes before the end of the pasta cooking time, add the beans to the pasta and potatoes.

While pasta cooks, heat the pesto in a large saute pan with 1-2 Tbsp. of the cooking water from the pasta. Do not boil. Transfer pasta, potatoes, and beans to colander to drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add pasta to the pan with the pesto and toss to coat evenly. Add reserved water as needed.

* This recipe is adapted from the Il Fornaio Pasta Book — a highly recommended cookbook with traditional regional Italian dishes. The dish will use all of the pesto, so if you’ve got enough basil, double the recipe and freeze the rest.

Beauty Break: “The Parisian” at Tavern On 2

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” — Benjamin Franklin

The above quote appears on the menu at Tavern On 2, a lovely little gastropub in Long Beach we had the pleasure of visiting for breakfast with a friend one recent early Saturday morning. Franklin’s quote is a worthy motto for, on my visit, it was once more impressed upon me that beautiful wine (or beer) and delectable food are two gifts that truly make life worth living.

Tavern On 2 is a tiny place. It’s got a great cafe atmosphere, with a small patio for sidewalk dining (complete with cozy space heaters that make it possible to eat outside even in inclement beach weather, which we did). Great old red brick walls and high ceilings line the long narrow dining room. It definitely borrows from the classic European cafe ambience and style.

The menu is ecelctic with a decidedly French twist. There is no bar in this little place; however beer, wine, and champagne are served all day. My friend ordered a mimosa, which appeared as a mix of citrus juice in a little carafe and a split of champagne, enabling him to mix the cocktail to his liking. And I was inspired to forgo the (unfortunately) lackluster coffee for a full flute of Lambertini Spumanti, a sparkling rose that paired perfectly with my dish.

And that dish is really the subject of this post because it was a truly lovely beauty break breakfast. So, beginning from the bottom up: “The Parisian” is a thick slice of toasted brioche smothered in a homemade bechamel sauce that would make Julia Child proud — it was perfect and carried just the requisite hint of nutmeg and the right amount of salt to make it truly divine. Atop this bed of brioche were two slices of fried ham, a slice of gruyere, and more béchamel. These layers were repeated one more time and then finished with perfectly scrambled eggs and a fresh sprinkle of bright green parsley. The dish was truly inspired — simple ingredients, put together artfully to make the best of comfort food on a cold, cloudy morning. It was not only beautiful to look at, it tasted magnificent. The sparkling rose — which I would never have typically ordered for breakfast — and a small bottle of Acqua Panna just put the meal over the top for me. For a brief moment, I was transported out of LA to a sidewalk cafe in Paris…….dreamy and so relaxing.

If you’re a SoCal local or happen to be in the area, be sure and stop by Tavern On 2 for a sublime culinary beauty break!