Presto Pesto! (And healthy too!)

With still a huge bouquet of basil left from last Sunday’s farmers’ market, I thought of making another batch of pesto, a family favorite around here. (I have two “World Famous” recipes in my repertoire (self-proclaimed, sadly).   Pesto is one of them.  The other is my bolognese sauce, but I won’t divulge that one until at least the first bite of winter!

But having gorged all summer long on enough butter and cheese from pesto to last a lifetime (okay, maybe only until next summer), I decided to make a lighter version which is not only lower in fat, but dairy-free as well.  Best of all, it comes together in less than half the time of the usual pesto, since there is no sauteing (in butter) of pine nuts and no shredding of big cheese chunks.  Oops…I may have given away the secret of my W.F. pesto recipe…

Here’s the light version:


1 cup pine nuts
1 1/2 cups EVOO
10 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and dried*, no stems
4-6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
salt to taste, about 1 teaspoon


1.  Preheat a small skillet over low heat.  Add pine nuts and lightly brown by shaking the pan and stirring the nuts, about 3 minutes. Be careful not to let them burn.  Set aside to cool.

2.  Add all ingredients to food processor or blender.  Puree until desired consistency, either chunky or smooth or somewhere in-between.

This recipe makes about 2 cups of pesto.  It can be stored for about 5 days in the fridge.

* A salad spinner works well to dry the leaves.



It happens to me every year around this time.  I start getting tired of summer produce.  (I feel guilty saying it; please understand.)  But I’m not yet willing to switch to apple pie, apple quick breads, and everything and anything made with cinnamon.  So this morning I glanced (with just a hint of annoyance) at the lineup of produce on my kitchen counter from yesterday’s farmers’ market and wondered what to do with it all.

Here’s yesterday’s catch:

one truly masterful, locally made 3-grain French Country Batard
several varieties of heirloom tomatoes, including heirloom cherry tomatoes
one small, dirt-covered red onion
one big bunch of bright-green basil, since my own is raggedy this late in the season
one bottle of white wine crafted by a local vineyard

In summer I always have on hand great-quality EVOO*, and red wine and balsamic vinegars, so I decided to make Panzanella, the one summer salad I haven’t already put together.  The beauty of this recipe is that you can use any quantity of the ingredients you wish, and you can add or subtract the extra ingredients to your liking, since no one likes to be told what to do this late in the summer!

Basic Ingredients:

mixed varieties of summer tomatoes
boule or baguette of whole grain french or other rustic bread, cut into bite-sized chunks
good quality red wine or balsamic vinegar, or a combination of the two
red onion, sliced and halved
fresh basil, julienned, chopped, or torn
salt and freshly ground black pepper


1.  Cut the bread as directed above.  To add some crunch, you can toast it by sauteing it in EVOO over med-low flame for 5-10 minutes. Un-toasted bread, on the other hand, works well to soak up the oil, vinegar, and tomato juices, so it’s your choice.  One or two-day old bread is preferable but not necessary.

2. Assemble all ingredients. Let sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes to blend flavors.  (Sip some of the wine while waiting.)

3. Here are some add-ins that work well: crumbles of cheese such as feta, goat, or ricotta salata, calamata olives, quartered beets, slices of white nectarines or peaches, kernels of left-over fresh corn, stripped from the cob.

* EVOO is the abbreviation of Extra Virgin Olive OIl