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Not your momma's pesto

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For the third time so far, summer has peeked its inviting forehead from the sides of the clouds. And every time it does, I get the urge to cook outdoors, eat outdoors or enjoying recipes that make me feel good, much as the radiance of the sun. Pesto just happens to be my springtime fling. It is great used as a dip for crusty French bread, mixed in with a cold pasta salad, tossed with just cooked pasta or served as the following recipe suggests. Basil pesto is a classic recipe and delicious in its own right. But when you add a spring-time taste, such as asparagus, it transforms this clean taste into something that you will remember and want to make numerous times. Spice this recipe up a bit with a dash or two of hot pepper sauce, a minced jalapeno pepper, a teaspoon of ground mustard or even some flavored oils.

The Yankee Chef's yanked grilled pita with asparagus and smoked gruyere

  • 1 lb. grilled asparagus*
  • 1/4 c. packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1 t. minced garlic
  • 3/4 c. EVOO (extra- virgin olive oil)
  • 1/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 T. roasted sunflower seeds
  • 1 lb. smoked gruyere cheese, thinly sliced
  • Sun-dried tomatoes, chopped or use sliced, fresh tomatoes
  • 3-4 pita breads
  • Nonstick cooking spray

If using an outdoor grill, preheat to high. In the meantime, cut asparagus into 2-inch segments and add to a food processor or blender along with basil leaves, garlic, EVOO, Parmesan cheese and sunflower seeds. Pulse until mixture is minced. With the processor or blender still running, slowly pour in the oil and continue processing until well blended and emulsified. Remove and pour into a bowl; set aside.

Lightly spray both sides of pita bread with nonstick cooking spray. Lay the pitas on the grill and cook until well browned on one side. Remove from grill and onto a plate. Reduce grill to low. Spread the asparagus pesto onto the cooked side of the pita. Top with gruyere and sun-dried tomatoes. Return to grill and close lid. Continue cooking for an additional 4-6 minutes or until cheese is bubbling and the underside of the pita has started to brown to your likeness. Remove onto serving plate and cut into wedges with pizza cutter.

*If you can accomplish grilling your asparagus on the outdoor grill without burning, this would be preferable. If using blackened asparagus, it discolors the pesto. I grill mine in a skillet with very little oil on medium-high heat, continually rolling in pan so they become uniformly browned.After finishing pesto, add some crumbly hard cheese such as manchego or cheddar into the food processor or blender and run again until crumbled. You don't want the cheese to be as fine as the pesto. This is fantastic served as a dip or spread on crackers to munch on throughout the day.

Visit my blog at theyankeechef.blogspot.com for other ideas for this versatile pesto.

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