Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Roasted Garlic Pesto

And your bonus for being such a good listener?  A recipe!  

Today's treat is a recipe (Finally!  I know, I talk/write way too much, but you should see me in person--I'm quiet, really!).  I made the most awesomely delicious pesto known to man.  I know, you are groaning, "Not another pesto recipe!  Dude, everybody has their own pesto recipe!"  Well, that is what you might think and if you leave now, your loss.  Seriously.  THIS pesto is worth the read and try.  And why is pesto related to our vitamin D post?  Just Because.  No, actually I'll serve it on shrimp and salmon, which if you remember, are good animals sources of vitamin D (although they will NEVER meet your vitamin D needs alone).

Method to the Madness: Roasting

The Garlic:  From America's Test Kitchen/Cooks Illustrated, I learned that roasted garlic tastes yummier than raw garlic in pesto.  It just adds a nuttier, richer, and less sharp, strong taste.  Since I have been buying the pre-peeled, packaged garlic (yes, convenience has done me in, just shoot me now!), I used that and roasted it in aluminum foil as I have seen other cooks do.  Don't worry, I'll go over this in the recipe.  If you have unpeeled garlic, try the America's Test Kitchen method of toasting it in a naked skillet over medium or low heat til just browning, not burning, on the outside.  If you have chopped/minced garlic, perhaps you can toast it in a skillet with some olive oil.  Whatever your method, we are after roasted garlic.  That makes all the difference here.

The Nuts:  I roast my nuts ALL the time ;)  So this application is no different.  It makes them more digestible than raw, but if you still have trouble with nuts (not an allergy, just upset digestion), try soaking and then roasting your nuts.  If you have an allergy, well, it sucks to be you.

The Basil:  Okay, this isn't roasted, but it has a method too.  I have read that bruised basil releases more flavorful oils than simply cutting it because more cells are ruptured to release their aromatic oils.  I suspect, but have yet to confirm, that cell processes are at work recruiting more liquid to the areas under duress, so more oil is released than during a quick chop.  Bruising herbs and letting them sit for a few minutes until you use them seems like it would lend itself to more flavor.  So I tried that with success.  Just be sure to use your bruised basil because it will not store this way.

Roasted Garlic Pesto
What can be more versatile than a rich, roasted garlic-infused pesto spreadable on any flat surface, pair-able with any meat, and dip-able by an array of veggies?  This classic pesto is a refrigerator staple!

Cooking Time: zero to pesto in 15 minutes or less

Quantity Achieved: about 1 to 1.5 cups (more is possible if you use more greens or oil)

Storage: air-tight in the refrigerator for about a week or measure out and freeze in muffin tins, then empty frozen pesto hockey pucks into a freezer-safe container and they'll keep for months.  Simply defrost and serve! 

You can make this with different greens and oils.  Here are two divine variations using the same basic recipe.

Classic Basil Roasted Garlic Pesto (pictured above)

  • about 2 cups (4oz before de-stemmed) fresh basil (I used the packaged variety since it isn't in season here yet)
  • about 10-12 cloves of garlic (fits in 2T, packed), peeled (if unpeeled or minced/chopped already, read The Garlic section above) (For the peeled, sealed garlic, I used half a garlic packet per batch of pesto)
  • 1/2 cup almonds or another nut of your choice (no, not peanuts, silly)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (the good stuff), more if you desire a creamier consistency, + a little drizzle for the roasted garlic
  • 2T freshly squeezed lemon juice (one pithy lemon or half a juicy one--or use more to taste)
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
NOTE: No cheese here and you will NOT miss it!


First, dump your almonds onto one half of a baking sheet and grab a large-ish square of aluminum foil.  Place the unpeeled garlic cloves in the center of the foil, drizzle on a little olive oil, sprinkle a little salt and grind a little pepper on top.  Mix to coat evenly.  Now, take two opposite sides of foil, connect them and bend over the edge.  Continue folding the edge over itself until you have reached the garlic.  Then, take one long side and fold it up and do the same to the other side to form a nice little garlic pouch.  Isn't that cute?  Place the pouch on the other side of the baking sheet from the nuts and place the sheet in a 350 degree oven, preheating doesn't matter.  Set a timer for 5 minutes and check the nuts.

In the meantime, prepare the basil by rinsing, drying, tearing leaves from large stems (some small stems and buds are fine), and squashing the leaves between your fingers.  Nothing too violent, just enough to bruise it.  Yeah, bruise that basil!  Bruise it good!  Isn't that a nice stress reliever?  Okay, now I am feeling mean.  Respectfully bruise that basil and tell it you'll relish every bite of its gracious contribution to your plate.  There.  Better.  

Have you checked your nuts?  If your nuts aren't done after 5 minutes, leave them in for another five or less if you feel they're close.  Done for those almonds means slightly more brown and some looking closer to burn, but not there yet.  It is difficult to tell; they never really look all that different to me (brown to more brown isn't very obvious), but I usually wind up getting anxious about burning and notice a fragrant, nutty smell.  They should be hot and start crackling when you take them out of the oven.  I love the sound effects!  So cute!  I err on the side of perhaps not all the way roasted brown, rather than risking burnage, because I too often become it's prey.

So once your nuts are done, put the foil pouch back in on the rack by itself, it shouldn't fall through unless you were really crazy with your folding.  Let it roast for at least 20 minutes total (don't forget the time it took the nuts to roast or the oven to preheat).  One time I let it go for 45min to an hour,  and that was an utter disaster.  So, now I err on the side of caution and say just roast until soft (you can mash them with a fork).  That varies depending upon your oven, how many times you checked your nuts, and other such unseen variables, so check the pouch (carefully unfold to look inside) after about 20 minutes and see if they are squashable.  If not, seal it back up and continue roasting another five minutes.  Watch the bottoms for browning or burning.  They are tricksy.

Okay, now we have roasted nuts and roasted garlic.  Awesome.  Your basil is bruised and bleeding, ready to get pulverized.  Let's get this party started!  Add basil, nuts, garlic, lemon juice, and 1/8 cup of extra virgin olive oil to the food processor and pulse to chop a few times, then let 'er whirl.  Scrape down the sides periodically and see how it's going in there.  The sides will probably be a green blur.  Once it is pretty well incorporated, add the remaining 1/8 cup of extra virgin olive oil, process for a good few minutes uninterrupted, then add more oil if desired to make your ideal consistency--for me, I like a thicker, paste-like pesto I can spread, more like hummus.  Others like theirs like soup.  Your choice!

When you are finished, add salt and pepper to taste.  Go easy with the salt--just a 1/8t to start.  One time I added a whole teaspoon and regretted it instantly.  If you don't use salt all that much, you grow much more sensitive to it!  If you do add too much salt, don't cry.  Just make another batch and now you have enough seasoning for both, or starting adding to the batch you already have.  Try some sun dried tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, more leafy greens, or if you want to be decadent, make Alton Brown's skillet mushrooms and add that.  Never heard of them?  Oh, that is a treat for another day, then!

Variation:  Arugula Roasted Garlic Pesto (pictured on the salmon below)
The peppery bite of the arugula pairs really well with the sweet roasted garlic, rich walnut oil, and lemon juice kick.  Delicious!

Ingredients and Method:
Same as above except use walnut oil instead of olive oil and 2 cups, packed, fresh baby arugula instead of basil (or in combination).

Pesto Serving Suggestions:
Damn near impossible to serve pesto wrong--it goes well on any meat I can think of (pesto bacon would be a neat one to try) and any veggie delivery device like celery or romaine.  Additionally, here are some great ways to make pesto a part of your main dish:

Classic Basil Roasted Garlic Pesto coated Shrimp
Pesto Shrimp
Want to get some vitamin D in the process?  Make a pound of shrimp and add a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of pesto to them  (right after cooking so it is easier to coat them).  Serve warm or cold.  OMG delicious!

If you don't know how to cook shrimp, here is a little primer for basic shrimp prep.  You can also grill them or saute in garlic, oil, and ginger (fan-freakin'-tastic, but perhaps not best for mixing with this pesto).
  1. Keep the tails on for more flavor, but devein them before cooking.  Rinse them and try to pat dry so they're not sopping wet.
  2. Get a skillet hot, add oil of your choice (for the pesto shrimp, I used olive oil, but I don't cook with it that often--avocado or coconut oil are better for high heat).  Then, add the shrimp.
  3. Here is the tricky part: You have to move FAST.  Get turning those little shrimps as soon as they start to turn pink and curl, which is nearly immediately.  Seriously, move FAST!  Use tongs or a fast-flipping spatula that you don't have to fuss with.  I love to cook shrimp because they are the cook's dream--they have a color changing doneness indicator! They're like little reverse Freezy Freakies (remember those? We'd store ours in the freezer).  Nice to have a clear signal for doneness visible across the room.  But you shouldn't be across the room, should you?  Get flipping!
  4. Once both sides have turned pink, immediately evacuate to a bowl or plate.  Don't wait for them to curl up into a nice little ball--just get them the hell out!  They'll continue cooking out of the pan.  I just make sure I don't see any obvious blue, see-through parts that show they're underdone.  The tails should be pink to red.  Err on underdone; they'll cook more on the plate. 
  5. Once they are out, now's your time to add the pesto.  Mix well to incorporate.
  6. Feast!
Pesto Salmon with Arugula Roasted Garlic Pesto
Pesto Salmon
Want more vitamin D for your buck, how about salmon?  There are a couple ways to do this: 1) broil with pesto on top (might make the pesto a little crunchy on top--could be good or bad), 2) broil halfway, then add pesto for the remainder, or 3) add pesto after the fish is done (you might not want to use cold pesto though).  Either way, broil until just done (it turns opaque from translucent, here is a good description--flaking is too long), then let it rest before serving.  I usually use the toaster oven and it's done in less than 10 minutes.  Great lunch!  If you want to get fancy, you can cook your salmon in a parchment or aluminum foil pouch with pesto on top, like this recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen that should be DELICIOUS with my pesto.  Give it a try!

Classic Basil Roasted Garlic Pesto smothered Roasted Turkey Breast

Pesto Roasted Turkey Breast
Yeah, I know, not really a great vitamin D-giver, but roasted turkey is a staple in this household.  It's super easy to prepare and gives us lunchmeat for a week when I make two at a time.  I buy the split breasts with bone in and skin on and prepare them using pesto rubbed under the skin, over the skin, inside the cavity along the tenderloin, even in slits cut into thick parts.  Basically, I want this turkey to be a pesto delivery system :)  Roast at 425, uncovered for 35-45 minutes (less if small), then check the temperature for 150 degrees (big double batches take up to an hour) and let it rest before diving in.  Makes a great meal or can be refrigerated for a week and served as lunchmeat alone or in salads.  Yum!  Here's my original Roasted Turkey Breast recipe.

Inspired?  I hope so!  Tell me about your pesto adventures!

1 comment:

  1. Looks delicious! Can't wait to try it - I have a big bunch of basil just waiting to be used.