Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pesto: all you can eat, and more

Pesto is in the same category as hummus for me: I can make it without having to use a cookbook, it is a million times more delicious when it's homemade than the shop-bought variety, and it's a versatile little beauty perfect for having on stand-by in the fridge to convert to tasty meals on-demand.

I must time myself making it some day, but I think I'd put it at roughly two minutes. Toasting the pine-nuts quickly on a non-stick pan:

Tear up some deliciously-scented basil leaves:

Parmesan, garlic...

...bitta olive oil and then press the magic button that makes things into a sauce-type substance.

Lemon juice makes it nice and zippy.

A bowlful of pesto in the fridge is the best reason ever to crack out the orzo. Orzo, for those of you lucky enough to yet have that moment of 'where have you been all my life' on tasting it for the first time, is a type of pasta that is grain-shaped, like a flattened, fat grain of rice. The texture is almost juicy, and it just oozes comfort. I first tasted it in New York, paired ingeniously with bacon and blue cheese, and it was love at first bite. I sought it out at home to no avail, and so I spent many years with my wistful memories of that amazing dish. My American sister-in-law was really amused at my insistence on jamming boxes of the stuff into my bag on my way home from visiting them in NY, until the glorious day arrived when I came upon it one day in Fallon and Byrne. TA DA!!!:

I have been careful not to overdo it on the orzo, lest I spoil its charms with over-exposure, but DAMN it's good with a dollop of pesto. And it takes a mere eight minutes to cook. As with any pasta, it's also perfect for a filling veggie meal, but I think that the plump texture makes it so much more satisfying than other types of pasta.

Brightly-coloured veggies make me feel virtuous, and I find that tomatoes are generally a joy to eat and easy peasy to squish into most meals. They are beautifully sweet when baked in the oven in a tin foil parcel for twenty minutes, and veggi-fy pasta very handily.

Spinach is another one that's practically dancing on its own stalks with the vitamins, and because it wilts pretty much at a sniff of heat, I think it may be number one in the speedy veg charts.

But by Thursday I had had plenty of virtuous veggie days, and I was in need of some omegas. After a swim and spinning session in the gym, followed by a precarious walk home dodging glassy ice, I needed something speedy - BUT also healthy and delicious. Rescued again by the pesto: mixed together with some tomatoes and olives and popped on top of a salmon fillet, baked in the oven for twenty minutes.

Quickly boiled up some spuds for essential carb-age, mashed with a bit of Philadelphia leftover from baking cream cheese brownies for some creamy indulgence, and my post-exertion hunger panic was quickly assuaged.

And somehow that bowl of pesto magically made itself disappear within days.

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