April 22, 2009
First, an addition to my column on coconut. Marleen Hansen has told me you can purchase lemongrass in Columbus from Lemon Grass Oriental Foods at 153 Priscella Circle (off Mike Parra Road). I haven''t been there, but I thought I''d pass this tidbit on. For that matter, Joy''s next to the Sunflower across from Lee Middle School may also have lemongrass.
Second, I had some distressing news last week. Sir Anthony has shut his doors. Bob Raymond called to make plans to take some of his French students there for dinner, and Anthony told him he was no longer serving. The main reason? Well, he had had too many nights of no-shows. Too often someone would make a reservation for a group and then not show up. All I can say is, "Shame on you!" How rude, how selfish, how plain awful.
Anthony only seats 12 people, and he takes bookings for groups to come into his home to eat. He buys enough food for his guests to actually have a choice of items for each course. This is a huge expense of money and time to prepare for these meals. I am so sorry for Anthony and Betty. They are such a unique couple, and it was a joy and pleasure to visit them.
The Hitching Lot Farmers'' Market opens this weekend, and I''m really looking forward to it, as I know many of you are also. We''ve got our beds ready to receive some dirt this week, and Terry''s potatoes are ready to put into the ground. I''m anxious to get some herbs growing, and I have a real hankering for some basil to make pesto.
I thought about pesto today as I watched a TV chef make a version with arugula, spinach, walnuts, fresh jalapeno, cheese and olive oil. It was the most beautiful, lively green, and when she tossed it with fussili pasta I could hardly stand it. I went out and bought the same ingredients (except I had to substitute a poblano for the jalapeno pepper) and plan to try it with shrimp and pasta.
I love pesto. And the wonderful thing is that it freezes so well, so you can enjoy your herb harvest for the next six months. Traditional Italian pesto is from the region around Genoa and is referred to as Pesto Genovese. It is made with basil and pine nuts and uses two types of Italian hard cheeses, Parmesan and romano. I have included a recipe with today''s column from "The Silver Spoon," published in English by Phaidon Press. This book has 2,000 Italian recipes.
A couple of years ago a friend of mine asked me to prepare food for a party she was having. I suggested that I make a pasta salad, which she hesitantly agreed to. I can understand her hesitation, having had far too many in life that were flavorless, watery, made with undercooked or overcooked vegetables or too clumpy with heavy dressing. However, I have found a wonderful pesto recipe that makes a perfect dressing for pasta salad. Pesto spinach is added, as well as a touch of mayonnaise. The result is thick enough to coat the pasta while not becoming too heavy. This recipe is also included.
One more favorite pesto of mine is with mint and walnuts. I used to make this one at my store, and we would use it as a sandwich spread for a lamb sandwich. It is a delightful alternative to jarred mint jelly. The version I prefer has parsley in it as well as a dash of lemon juice.
There are limitless uses for pesto. Here is a short list:
Enjoy spring and summer all year and freeze your pesto. I recommend you do not add the cheese to do this. Simply put the pesto into a freezer-safe container and top it with a film of olive oil. You can easily spoon out the pesto as you need it (it doesn''t freeze hard), or thaw it all at once and add some grated cheese to it.
25 fresh basil leaves
Scant 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup freshly grated romano cheese
Source: "The Silver Spoon"
Pesto Pasta Sauce
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pine nuts
3 tablespoons garlic, diced
5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 1/4 cup mayonnaise
Source: "Barefoot Contessa Parties!"
3/4 cup packed mint leaves
1/4 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
Two scallions, thickly sliced
Two garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Anne Freeze, a self-professed foodie, was a restaurant general manager and owner of a gourmet food store before moving to Columbus. She is a volunteer for The Hitching Lot Farmers'' Market in Columbus. She can be reached at email@example.com.