GUEST BLOGGER: Molly Watson
I've been disenchanted with pesto for awhile. Like mauve carpeting and teal end tables, it seemed so 80's, and not in a good way. Also the many, many terrible pestos over the years sort of caught up with me and started to influence my experience of perfectly good--even great--pestos. Then I got a whole mess of basil and new garlic (the kind that's really sticky when you chop it and whose papery skin hasn't dried completely yet) from my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and I had but one thought: Pesto.
So I made it. And it was good. And green. I used a trick where you blanch the basil first--putting it in boiling salt water and then plunging it into ice water to set the color--so it stayed green. It stayed green when it hit the hot pasta and it stayed green in the fridge overnight. A bit of extra hassle, to be sure, but the color pay-off was amazing. This green could decorate the whitest of white-on-white rooms and brighten the beigest of dining rooms.
For a lot of people the fun of having a dinner party is all in setting the table and gussying up the house for guests. I focus on the food. To a fault, one could say. A bit more attention to candles and mood would serve my dinner parties well, I know. But I don't have the gene. So I compromise and try to make the food carry more than its fair share of weight and not just taste good, but dress the place up too. This pesto will serve me well on this front.
Which reminds me of another dish I've been making that carries enough color to distract guests from their un-laid surroundings: Beet & Yogurt Salad. The first time I made it my husband remarked that it looked like acrylic paint. And it does. Plus it tastes fabulous and is easier than pie. Works as a side dish, salad, on top of greens, or as a dip. Make it in good health, and try to remember you ate a lot of beets recently before calling your doctor with concerns about a urinary tract infection!
His little hands can’t hold still long enough for an in-focus picture, but I love it anyway.
*Basil photo by cowden; Beet photo by Darwin Bell.