19 February 2008

Brown Baggin' It: Pesto

I am constantly on the look-out for new lunch ideas. I have made a valiant attempt to pack my lunch in 2008 instead of buying. So far it has really worked out for me. I have done a fairly good job of mixing things up and keeping my taste buds interested. I have a couple co-workers who are horrible influences and constantly want to eat out. So my packed lunch must be especially tasty to avoid giving in and eating out.

I currently have a nasty case of spring fever. The weather in Ohio has been up and down, full of false promises and surprise storms. Thunder storms in February? Tornadoes in February? 65 degrees in February? Blizzard-like conditions in February? You get the idea. By no means am I surprised by this unpredictable weather - anyone who has lived in Ohio knows our unofficial state motto is "Don't like the weather? Wait 5 minutes and it'll change." Nonetheless, the weather has made me crave some summertime food. Nothing tastes more like summer to me than pesto.

I think I could eat any pesto concoction. Apparently if you put any green thing with any nut in a food processor, I will eat it. Well, maybe I am not quite that adventurous, but I do love most any variety of pesto, including those made without the traditional herb- basil. As I recently mentioned, I spent the weekend at L's house and spent some time grocery shopping. I should have bought hydroponic basil at Jungle Jim's when I was there with L - if only I had known there would be a basil shortage in Columbus. I think I was so heartbroken that L snatched the last two hydroponic Thai basil plants, that I couldn't think clearly enough to grab some other basil. Woe is me.

Don't worry, I didn't mope around too long after I realized there was no decent looking basil available anywhere in Columbus late Sunday night. I dried my tears and decided to think outside the proverbial pesto box. I came away with a rather large bag of baby spinach and a jar of sun dried tomatoes packed in oil. Two very simple ingredients would come together to make a delicious and nutritious sauce for my lunches this week- a delicious Tortelloni Pesto Salad with tons of vegetables.

Don't let the long list of vegetables scare you off - this recipe is totally worth the effort, especially since it makes several servings.

Tortelloni Pesto Salad

3/4 cup Spinach & Sun Dried Tomato Pesto (or really any pesto you like, use more to taste)
16 oz fresh tortelloni (I used Giovanni Rana Artichoke Tortelloni)
2 roasted, sweet bell peppers, thinly sliced
1 raw, sweet bell pepper, roughly chopped
6-8 oz artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
3 stalks celery, sliced on the diagonal
3 carrots, sliced on the diagonal
1.5 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (or any good tomato)
1 cup sliced English cucumber
1 cup steamed fresh broccoli, roughly chopped
1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
8 oz good quality olives, pitted and chopped into thirds (I used large green Greek olives)
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

Cook the pasta according to the package directions (I blanch the broccoli with the pasta during the last minute of cooking the pasta). Thoroughly drain the pasta (and broccoli), add to a large bowl with the onions and pesto. I like to mix these ingredients while hot - the onions lose some of their sharpness and the pesto clings to the pasta. After the mixture has cooled about 10 minutes, add the remaining ingredients and toss thoroughly. Serve on top of greens for an awesome main dish salad.

Spinach & Sun Dried Tomato Pesto

4 oz fresh spinach leaves
1/3 to 1/2 cup sliced sun-dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
zest of 2 lemons (at least 3 T)
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup pine nuts
1-2 cups finely shredded Romano cheese (I need to weigh this next time - the cheese is so fluffy when you grate it that it is hard to measure.)
1 T of olive oil from tomatoes
2-3 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 T red wine vinegar

Combine all of the ingredients in a 7 cup food processor and process until nearly smooth. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste - I find it doesn't need much salt since the cheese is so salty. I tend to add the vinegar and extra lemon juice to taste. I prefer a very vinegary pesto, so start light and add to taste. This is a very yummy sandwich spread on its own (more on this tomorrow!) or it can be used anywhere basil pesto is used.


LisaRene said...

Pesto is wonderful. I think I like it so much because it is such a strongly flavored sauce, very satisfying to the taste buds.

I always wonder about the best way to measure grated cheese since it varies depending on which grater I use. It is probably time I get myself a kitchen scale.

Josie said...

LisaRene- I totally agree about grating hard cheeses!! I stink at remembering to weigh stuff so I should probably write recipes in terms of "loose handfuls". :)

Your website is really pretty, and your dogs are adorable!! Thanks for stopping by!

Sophie said...

I have never made pesto, but all these ingredients put together sound so fresh and tasty, it's inspiring :)

Sophie :)