I’ve been happily following along throughout Bridget’s pregnancy–especially with my own due date only one week behind–and am so excited to finally meet him! Congratulations to the growing Hunt family!
I can only imagine that putting a nice, healthy meal on the table will prove a bit more challenging in these first weeks (or months), but it’s my belief that fresh pesto can make almost any meal seem special. It’s surprisingly simple to make, so it’s the perfect recipe for someone who can, with one arm, balance a baby and, with the other, pulse the food processor or blender. And once the introduction of solid foods begins, those kitchen tools may be getting a lot of use anyway!
I vividly recall the first time I dipped a piece of focaccia into fresh pesto: we had picked up both at a small market in one of the villages of the Cinque Terre in Italy and the flavor was literally a revelation. Most pre-made pesto, like that you find at the grocery, has been cooked for pasteurization. Even that which you have on your pasta has been heated such that the flavor changes. But Genovese-style pesto, just after it has been made, is bright green and retains all the character of fresh basil. I look forward to it every summer, when the crop is at its best.
You can play with this recipe (adapted from Bon Appetit) to suit your own tastes, but start with the best ingredients you can find:
4 cups fresh basil leaves (will yield around 1 cup of pesto)
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts (be careful as these are quick to burn–untoasted will work, too, if in a hurry)
1 large garlic clove
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese (you can also try a mix of pecorino and Parmesan)salt to taste (usually around a tsp is sufficient)
Combine the first four ingredients in a blender or food processor (or with mortar and pestle if you want to work out some frustration). Blend until a paste forms. Next, add the cheese and salt and blend until smooth. Sometimes, at this point, I like to add a bit of fresh lemon zest or juice for extra brightness.
You will want to have some immediately, perhaps on toast or over some mozzarella and melon, but you can freeze pesto or keep it in the fridge for a day or two. And then you can put it on nearly anything, from sandwiches to steak, pasta to chicken. It will look like you slaved over it!
At the very least, Bridget, I hope it takes you back to Italy when you feel the need for a little vacation!