By Jenny Osburn
Jenny Osburn is the author of The Union Street Café Cookbook. Her second collaboration with Laura MacDonald of Deep Hollow Print, The Kitchen Party Cookbook, is now available! Find more recipes at jennyosburn.com and see what she’s up to on instagram at jenny.osburn
It’s pesto time in the Valley! A bright green basil sauce zinging with garlic and luxuriant with Parmesan cheese and olive oil, pesto is extremely versatile in the kitchen. Toss it with freshly cooked pasta, use it as a pizza sauce, spread it on a tomato sandwich, spoon it over hodge podge and grilled vegetables, or serve it straight up in a bowl for dipping as my uncle Peter does, much to everyone’s delight.
It’s a subject of dispute in my family, but I believe the first time I tasted pesto it was made by Reds. Though I don’t remember his real name, Reds was a jolly and obnoxious old friend of my Dad’s from Delaware. He zoomed up on his motorbike from time to time to visit my parents, cook, and make sure my sister and I learned all our curse words before going to school.
Anyway, he made it and we loved it as most kids do! We still love it and grow lots of basil each summer to make enough pesto to freeze for the coming months. Here’s how we do it.
(makes about a cup)
2 C loosely packed basil leaves, or 1 C basil leaves and 1 C parsley leaves
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp sunflower seeds
½ tsp salt
⅓ C olive oil
½ C freshly grated Parmesan cheese
In a food processor, combine the basil, optional parsley, garlic, sunflower seeds and salt. Pulse to finely chop, then turn the machine on and stream in the olive oil. Process until smooth, then add the cheese and pulse briefly to combine. The pesto can be stored in the fridge for a week or two, just make sure to tamp down the solids so there is a good layer of oil on top. Freeze in bags or jars for longer storage.
Simple White Bean and Pesto Dip
(makes 2 cups)
If you want to make this a little fancier, you could dice a roasted red pepper and stir it in. But it’s great just like this.
1 can (540 ml) white kidney beans, drained
¼ C pesto
1 Tbsp lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in the food processor and purée until smooth.
Crispy Pesto Flatbread Wedges
Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread large tortillas with about 3 Tbsp pesto each. Top with your choice of chopped vegetables: asparagus, spinach, red pepper, sun-dried or fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, sautéed mushrooms, olives, and artichoke hearts all work well. Sprinkle each tortilla with about 1/2 C shredded mozzarella and drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake for about 10 minutes, until crispy and golden. Let cool a bit, then cut into wedges and serve at any temperature.