August 30, 2011

Never-Ending Summer

Well, it's the end of Summer.  It's been a while since I've actually marked this passing with anything more than excitement for the fall and cool weather, but here in Chapel Hill, summer just seems to never end.  It's still hot down here and I've resigned myself to the fact that I'm going to have to think of a few more things to do in the heat.  Luckily, there are still plenty of summer recipes left to roll out.  Good thing I didn't cook very much at the beginning of summer in the north or I would be just clean out of ideas.
So we've reached basil.  That amazing plant that just belongs to summer.  You can get bushels of it for pennies this time of year, or if you're lucky, you have a homegrown supply in your backyard.  I haven't yet tried my hand at cultivating the dust bowl that is my backyard, so I still have to get the stuff at the farmer's market, but really, when you can get enough basil for more than 10 dinners for $1, growing it yourself hardly seems like the effort.
You saw that I used the fresh basil in my tabouleh recipe which really popped, and on the roasted tomato caprese salad, but there are only so many ways to use a big bunch of basil.  So of course, after a few days, I decided to convert it to pesto.  Our go to recipe is from my family's Bible, The Silver Palate Cookbook and this recipe has been recreated in my parent's home for as long as I can remember. Just a few days a ago, my mom told me another 16 batches of pesto had been put up in the freezer!  This time, I just made one batch and froze half for later this year.  The rest I put in a jar in the fridge and we've been using it to spice up sauces and leftovers.  For the first time, I took Ina Garten's suggestion of not putting in the parmesan until we're ready to eat the pesto.  I'll let you know how the frozen version comes out, but so far it's worked with our fresh batch!
Enjoy this Culbreth Family tradition. In the meantime, I'm going to think of more things to cook on the grill.

(Slightly Adapted) Silver Palate Pesto 
Yields 2 cups, or enough for 2 lbs of pasta
2 cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed and patted dry
4 good-size garlic cloves, peeled
1 cup shelled walnuts
1 cup olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
salt & pepper to taste

Combine the basil, garlic, and walnuts in a food processor and pulse to chop. Leave the motor running and add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream. If eating right away, shut the motor off, add the cheese, salt & pepper, and stir with a spatula to combine.

**Leftovers Revived: 
In this new Hotplate Confidential feature, I'll take left overs to a whole new level. No one wants to have the same thing night after night, but when you've made enough to feed an army, what do you do? First up: Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad. With this salad, I chopped up the rest of the mozzarella and tomatoes and added it to whole wheat pasta. (Don't forget to add the roasting juices too!) When I added just a touch of pesto, the dish came alive!  And there you have it - a way to eat up last night's dinner without getting bored.
A Luscious Tomato and Mozzarella Pasta Dinner


  1. The best pesto in the universe! Thanks for posting, Erin.

  2. How about pizza on the grill?

  3. I couldn't agree more, @Karen! And @Anon, I would love to do pizza on the grill! I'm trying to hold out until the weekend. Have any good whole wheat dough recipes?


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