I didn’t ever have pesto until I was in college and went over to an Italian friend’s house. Luckily, my first experience with pesto was of the homemade variety, rather than the preservative-laden jarred variety, so I was immediately transported into gourmet heaven with my first bite. It wasn’t until I was married, with a couple basil plants on the deck of our condo, that I actually made pesto, and also Caprese (pronounced kah-pray-say, but I didn’t find that out till later).
Needless to say, both became a summertime staple in our house, and one of my first requests when we moved to Tucson was for my husband to work out a way for me to have herbs. He likes pesto as much or more than I do, so he worked very hard this spring to mount herb baskets, and then to work out a way to shade them when we realized they were getting pre-dried before we could pick them. When we came back from a two-week vacation in Maine, we had two luxurious basil plants and the only thing I could reasonably do was to make a double batch of pesto and Caprese. I mean, you can’t let all that lusciousness go to waste, can you??
- 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
- 2 large cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 TBS grated Romano cheese (or use more Parmesan)
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, walnut or pecan halves, or pistachios
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste (don't add much salt, especially if you've used pistachios)
- fresh mozzarella (yes, fresh!)
- ripe tomatoes
- basil leaves
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- Put all the dry ingredients in a food processor (I find it's helpful to put the leaves in first, and then weight them down with the other ingredients) and process until roughly chopped. Add oil in a thin stream until the consistency is good. Pesto shouldn't be a puree though, so take it easy. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve on a good sourdough or asiago bread.
- Slice the tomatoes and lay them on a platter. I usually skip the end pieces and eat them later with the dressing. Lay a basil leaf on each tomato. Smaller tomato pieces can have half leaves. Slice the mozzarella and place a piece on each tomato. For the big mozzarella logs, we usually use half a slice or a quarter of a slice. For baby mozzarella, you can still half or quarter the small balls.
- Mix equal amounts of olive oil and lemon juice (some people use balsamic instead of lemon juice), and add about a 1/4 tsp each of salt and pepper. Pour over the tomatoes.
- I found out that Caprese is called a tricolore salad because it uses the three colors of the Italian flag. Salute!