For years I’ve enjoyed those columns so prominent in a variety of food magazines that do a quick interview of famous people and celebrities and ask such questions as What is your favorite food? What is your favorite restaurant in the world, and why? If you were able to invite anyone from all of history to join you at the table who would it be? It’s as if the answers give us the vicarious opportunity to fantasize about a lifestyle most of us will never experience… and we know that we love it! My favorite question, however, has always been What’s in your refrigerator? Somehow I feel as if I’m gaining access to something very private and personal. It’s much like feeling guilty about peeking into someone’s clothes closest!
Our refrigerator has several prominent items that are always readily available. That list includes preserved lemons, a wedge or two of Parmigiano Reggiano, ground garlic in oil, whole unpeeled garlic cloves, a crock of homemade creme fraiche and a container of homemade pesto sealed over with a film of extra virgin olive oil to preserve its rich green color and prevent spoilage.
On a recent trip to Berkeley Bowl West I was thrilled to come upon one pound bags of fresh aromatic basil and immediately grabbed one for the hand basket I was carrying. The pantry at home contained plenty of extra virgin olive oil, a large bag of pinenuts was in residence in the freezer and the refrigerator contained an abundance of whole cloves of garlic waiting to be coarsely chopped and added to the food processor. The pesto container, the contents of which were getting scant, was about to be refilled. A spoonful or two of fresh pesto added to a quick pasta dish makes what is ordinary extraordinary. Last night we added a half cup of fresh pesto to the sauce of an eggplant timbale that was on the Sunday evening dinner menu… indescribably delicious!
Pesto a la Genovese
1 pound fresh basil, leaves plucked from stems and divided into two equal portions (this yields 3/4 lb fresh leaves)
Place one half of the leaves into the bowl of a food processor. Add:
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
Pulse until basil is coarsely chopped. Add:
the remaining basil leaves
1 C whole peeled garlic cloves (4-oz by weight), coarsely chopped
Pulse until smooth, scraping down sides of processor bowl as necessary:
1 C Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
Process till smooth. Add:
1 C pinenuts
Process until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary:
Transfer to a container and cover with a film of extra virgin olive oil to seal, maintain the beautiful green color and prevent spoilage. Use to flavor and enhance pasta cream sauces and vegetable soups. In fact, it is a splendid addition to many dishes that call for basil… Bon Appetit!
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