Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I Have a Pest-o Problem

When I purchased some basil, our well-stocked small-town grocery store only had the massive family-sized container left. Seriously, what kind of normal person needs that much basil?

I realized that I did (although I am arguably not exactly normal) when I was staring at the gobs of leftovers from the bruschetta and thought about how much I love pesto but never make it because I never have that much basil on hand.

I had never even laid a taste-bud on pesto until I met Eric and, for me, it was an acquired taste. But once I acquired it, I never looked back. Normal pesto is pretty strong because of the large quantity of basil involved, so I started thinking about what else is green and leafy and might complement the basil flavor while toning it down a few notches. Spinach! My kids love spinach and will eat it plain, so I figured they might give a spinach pesto a try.

We had it on Sunday with whole wheat angel hair pasta and grilled chicken and they all devoured it (except for Peter and he doesn't count). I doubled the pesto recipe because Eric could eat it plain with a spoon and never get enough. As I looked at how much pesto we had to spare and eyed the extra piece of chicken still left that the boys were about to dive into for their fourth helping, I decided that I wanted to try making Pesto and Grilled Chicken pizza the next night. I had to fight for it and nearly got maimed in the process, but Eric and I are still swooning over it. (We are ridiculously foodie-ish, I know.)

Spinach and Basil Pesto with Angel Hair Pasta and Grilled Chicken

Marinade: (I'm guessing on the measurements a little--I just eyeballed it and added what sounded good. If you're super lazy like I am most of the time, you can just marinate it in zesty italian dressing.)
2 t minced garlic
2 t brown mustard
4 T lemon juice
3 t Italian Seasoning
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/4 cup balsalmic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil

Mix well. Tenderize (with a fork) and marinate 4-6 chicken breasts in a freezer bag for 6-8 hours. Grill chicken for 7-10 minutes on each side or until juices run clear.

Spinach and Basil Pesto
1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves
3/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered or 3 t. minced garlic or 2 t garlic salt (which will make it less strong for your kids)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (or LIME juice--it is so good! That's what I did this last time)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional--I almost always forget to buy the stupid lemon)
1/4-1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (depending on how think you like your pesto)

Blend the spinach, basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice, lemon zest, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a food processor until nearly smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary. Drizzle the remaining olive oil into the mixture while processing until smooth.

Serve pesto over whole wheat angel hair pasta with shaved parmesan on top and grilled chicken on the side.

Wheat-ish Pizza Dough
(The basic recipe is my friend, Kimber's recipe, with a few modifications)
1 T yeast
11/2 cups warm water
1 t sugar

Let sit for a few minutes in a big plastic bowl until you get a nice froth.

1 1/2 cups white flour and 1 1/2 cups wheat flour
1 t salt
1 T sugar
2 T olive oil
Extra water as needed (when you use the whole wheat flour, you need to add about 1/2 cup extra water to get the desired consistency. If you use all white flour, then you probably won't need the extra water.)

Mix together until you get an elastic-like dough that pulls away from the side of your dish. It will be a little sticky.

Let rise for one hour. Punch down dough and let rise for another thirty minutes. (You could probably get away with less rise time, but this is the way I like it. The original recipe only calls for 10-15 minutes of rise time, so if you're in a hurry, go for it.)

Add a little flour to the dough and to your hands so it's easier to work with. You can roll it out in a circle with a rolling pin or just spread it on your pizza pan and then make indentations with your finger tips all over the dough.

For "normal people" pizza, add tomato sauce and sprinkle garlic salt and italian seasonings over sauce. Add toppings and italian cheese blend. Our favorites are meatball pizza and turkey pepperoni (I have a good recipe for meatballs if you want it. I double the recipe so we can have spaghetti and meatballs one night and then meatball pizza and breadsticks the next.)

For Pesto Pizza, spread about 3/4 cup of pesto over crust. Add pieces of grilled chicken and top with italian blend cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 or until the edges of the crust are browned. (We like to broil ours for the last minute, but be careful that you don't burn it to a charred crisp!)

Fancy Breadstick Sticks

I've never even been to the Pizza Factory. At least, I don't think I have. If I did go, it wasn't very memorable then, was it? Apparently they have breadsticks there that they make on dowels and serve in vases. My RS President served them at a dinner at her house and I knew I had to try them. She told me the basics and then I guessed the rest and added my own topping.

Soak 1/4 inch dowels in water for several hours. (I just put them in a 9x13 pan full of water and put a bowl on top of them to hold them down.)
Roll out about one-half batch of pizza dough (recipe above) in a 9 x 13 rectangle and use pizza cutter to cut into one inch strips.
Wrap one strip of dough around each dry dowel and place on cookie sheet. Let rise for 30 minutes. Brush on butter topping.

Butter topping:
1/2 cube better, melted
3 t dried minced onion
2 t dill weed
2 t italian seasoning
4 T parmesean cheese

Let sit for about ten minutes to let flavors meld. Spread over breadsticks with a pastry brush. Sprinkle extra parmesean cheese over breadsticks.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Turn them around the half-way mark so you don't have a flat side in your vases later. Let cool and serve in the biggest clear vase you have lying around or get your husband to buy you a big ole' bunch of flowers and take the flowers out and use that vase (personally, I prefer Gerber daisies). This recipe will make about 12-15 sticks, depending on how big your dowels are.


jenny said...

Yum! That pesto looks delish! I will have to try it!

Angela Jensen said...

Have you tried Ina Garten's Pesto Pasta Salad? Mmm boy.

Pine nuts
and a dressing of pureed pesto, frozen spinach, lemon juice and mayo

The Ricks Family said...

thanks for sharing, I am going to try it!

Kimber said...

I shouldn't read your blog when I'm hungry. A screen full of your food just left all the food in my house sounding bland and boring. Guess I need to pick up some of that bulk basil!

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