May it Please the Palate: 'Pesto Presto?' Basil, garlic and olive oil!

Pesto is a beautiful thing.

Nothing says summer quite like the fragrance of fresh basil. Plus, it's quick, easy and delicious. Any fledgling cook can easily put this in the ol' arsenal and be seen as a genius.

Pesto is three basic ingredients - basil, garlic, and olive oil, whirled together in the food processor. Poof! Pesto presto.

Variations add toasted nuts, grated hard cheese, a dash of salt, and perhaps a hint of lemon.

An alarming trend, spawned by the growing tendency to waste no part of any food product, is to use things like carrot tops or anything else green to provide "nutrients" to the pesto.

Reject this as heresy.

Basil is as essential in pesto as beer to a frat party.

A batch of pesto is also versatile. It can be spread on toasted bread for instant bruschetta, (which is pronounced brew-sketta but you will sound weird unless you say brew-shetta). It can be tossed on pasta, or a handy coating for grilled chicken or vegetables.

A beautiful complement to pesto are diced, fresh summer tomatoes.

Basil and tomatoes are truly soulmates (unlike, for example, J-Lo and Marc Antony).

Tomatoes not only add a flavor and texture complement, but dazzling color. You will want to take a picture of your finished product with your cell phone, and post it to Facebook so your 642 friends can see what a good cook you are.

Here's a great go-to pesto recipe:

Pesto

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh basil leaves, de-stemmed, washed and dried (I use a salad spinner)

4 cloves garlic

1/3 cup nut meats (pine nuts are traditional but more expensive than gasoline; walnuts are a good substitute)

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano (optional)

pinch salt

Preparation

Toast the nuts for just a minute or two on baking pan at 350 degrees or over low heat in a sauté pan.

Add the nuts and garlic to a food processor. Chop finely.

Add the basil and continue chopping, salt, and cheese, if using.

Then pour the oil in a slow stream through those handy little holes in the lid of your food processor.

Dude, that's it.

A favorite quick appetizer is to cut small slices of ciabatta bread or a baguette, brush on both sides with olive oil, and broil or grill until lightly golden brown.

Spread pesto on top, diced fresh tomatoes, and serve to your admiring guests.

Don't forget to take that photo with your cell phone before they dig in!

Nick Roumel is a principal with Nacht, Roumel, Salvatore, Blanchard and Walker, P.C., a litigation firm in Ann Arbor specializing in employment litigation.

He also has many years of varied restaurant and catering experience, has taught Greek cooking classes, and writes a food/restaurant column for "Current" magazine.

He can be reached at: nroumel@nachtlaw.com

Published: Thu, Aug 18, 2011

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