The Passion and the Pesto

My friends Brandi and Shane are in the middle of adopting their daughters and bringing them home from Ukraine.  Adoption in general is pretty expensive.  International adoption in particular can really be a strain on a young family's budget.  So, some people decided it would be cool to host a benefit in their honor.

Liza was part of the team organizing everything.  They had a meeting where, amongst various other topics, they discussed what food to serve as the dinner.  It was decided that there would be a pasta bar with different sauces.  Liza volunteered me (notice who volunteered who) to make a pesto sauce because, "Chris makes a really good pesto sauce."

Now, I should clarify Liza's ringing endorsement of my pesto-production-prowess.  There was this one time that we were having people over, and I decided to make lamb chops and a mint-basil pesto with which to garnish them.  That's it.  However, in the mind of my ever-affirming wife, that means that I make a really good pesto sauce.

Anyway, despite the fact that I have never, EVER made a pesto sauce for past, I was more than willing to give it a try.  I scoured the internet for pesto recipes (which basically means I went to foodnetwork.com, searched "pesto," clicked on "Giada De Laurentiis" and scanned the results for something I thought would be easy).  I found two I liked the sound of and decided to combine them into one mega-recipe.  I made a list of needed ingredients for Liza who was kind enough to volunteer to go to the grocery store for me, and that was that.

Yesterday, the day of the benefit, I sat out to make the sauce.  My combined recipe (planned out to be enough sauce for 40 people) called for five 10 ounce packages of frozen spinach.  These packages had been thawed but I needed to basically squeeze as much of the moisture from them as I could.  I grabbed one of the packages to begin and tore it open.  What stared back at me was not frozen spinach but frozen broccoli.  In fact, three of my five packages were frozen broccoli.

This was just a slight oversight on Liza's part, but I panicked.  I didn't know what to do.  So, I just pressed forward, throwing all kinds of things together in a food processor, adjusting ingredients as I made each batch and praying that it would turn out okay.

Evidently it did.  A number of people have said how much they liked it and some extremely kind and flattering souls have even requested the recipe.

I give all of you this backstory  to let you know that I don't really have a recipe.  I started with two from Giada (I love you, Giada), but things only devolved from there.  However, I'm going to attempt to give you all the recipe here.  I would encourage you, though, to experiment with it yourself until you get what you like.

Primo Pesto

Recipe for 8 servings

Ingredients needed:

  • 1 (10 oz.) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed almost dry
  • 1 (4 oz.) can artichoke arts, drained
  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • ½ cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • ¾ cup fresh parsley, packed down
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, packed down
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, roasted and peeled

1.  Toast the pine nuts and almonds in a single layer in a large skillet over medium heat until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.  Stir occasionally throughout.

2.  In a food processor, combine pine nuts, almonds, parmesan cheese, garlic, artichoke hearts salt and pepper.  Pulse blend a few times.

3.  Add spinach, basil, parsley and lemon.  Blend on low a few moments.  Then add chicken broth and blend on high.

4.  Slowly pour in the olive oil while continuing to blend until smooth.

5.  Serve with pasta, chicken, bread, lamb, whatever.

I hope you enjoy it.

Bon Appetit!