It has been a very rainy season this summer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Now, to be sure, Louisiana is very often rainy during the summer, but this year I have only had to water my herbs and vegetables about three times this summer - because it has rained almost every day -- and my poor rosemary! I couldn't bring it in out of the rain, so it got too wet, root rotted, and died. Boo! So once it starts to get drier, I will have to get some more. But my basil has been loving it. This has been one of the best basil seasons I have ever had.
So much so, that I decided that I would make a pesto spread and try to recreate the dinner that my husband and I had almost nightly when we were visiting Rome. And just getting the basil ready for the meal has made me nostalgic for Rome and traveling in Europe.
I loved Rome! And the hotel where we were staying was so beautiful, but it was one of the more expensive hotels in Rome- it was the Waldorf Astoria. So, even though our friends had gotten us a very good deal on the room, we could not afford most of the restaurants in or around the hotel.
What was a couple on a budget to do?!?!? Especially around Christmas time when it's not exactly tourist season?
Our solution was just down the hill from the hotel. There was a little "village" neighborhood that had a cafe, a patisserie, a wine shop and little local deli type store that had wine, bread, and the best pesto I have ever eaten in my life. We would get some spreadable cheese, a loaf of crunchy bread, salami, a bottle of wine, some fruit - like grapes or an apple and some of the pesto. We would also get some flavored yogurt and we would take it to the hotel. Since it was December/January, and our hotel had a marble balcony, we would keep our yummy goodies in a plastic bag on the balcony underneath the ledge so it was out of the sun. And every evening, after running all over the city doing the tourist thing, we would come home and eat our simple dinner.
|We would spread the food out on the coffee table, open the sliding glass doors, cause most evenings it was a little too cold to eat out on the balcony and enjoy the sounds of Rome.|
I never got tired of it.
And I loved to look at the lions that decorated the yard that you could see from the balcony.
My inner child loved to fantasize about the lions coming to life. (Haven't you ever wondered about statues coming to life? No. Its just me?............ Okay then.)
And in the mornings we would eat the yogurt and some more fruit and be ready to start another day. (Well, I would be ready to start the day, my husband would have to stop at the cafe to get an espresso.)
|There are little shops like this all over the place, and they all show off their food and, in a place of honor were their sandwiches.|
|Look at that!!!! That is one sandwich! And it would only cost you about the same amount as a Big Mac Meal and yes, that includes the drink. |
Yes, I definitely need to start saving so that I can go back.
But, until then, I can try to recreate the simple dinner that I had nightly to bring back memories.
|Basil, from my garden! It doesn't matter how often I grow things, it still makes me happy to see it.|
There are several different pesto recipes out on the internet. And most of them vary very little, but I did want to include one that I saw on Jacques Pepin's Fast Food My Way show the other day. This recipe can be found online on his site, so I don't feel guilty for including it here.
Minute Recipe: Basil and Cheese Dip
Printer-friendly recipe [pdf]
Put about 3 cups (lightly packed) washed basil leaves in a plastic bag or glass bowl with a cover. Microwave for about 30 seconds. Dump the hot basil from the bag into a blender. Add 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup cool water, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Process until finely pureed. (As a variation, you can add about 1/2 cup diced (1/4-inch) Gruyère cheese and stir well.) Serve with bagel chips, Melba Toast, or potato chips. The dip stays brilliant green and keeps for a few days in the refrigerator.
Makes about 1 cup
However, if you are looking for a good, more traditional pesto, here is another link.
This is a pretty standard pesto recipe, but I like that it includes the possibility of substituting fresh spinach. This does two things, it helps if you don't have enough basil to make a fresh pesto, but you still want to make a pesto. Or, it helps you make the pesto less strong so that you can have a pesto "lite" as it were. This site does a great job of giving clear directions and has wonderful pictures!
But, in case the link doesn't work:
|I know this has nothing to do with pesto. But it's Italian, and I'm a little obsessed with the vintage pink fiat. I wonder if it comes in aqua?..........|
|Squee!!!! It does come in aqua.|