Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Summer Pickings


Invasion of the mint plants.

This time of year meal planning is all about simplicity and what is available in the garden. Fresh herbs are at their peak and nothing says summer dinner like a basil pesto. I love to use a mix of different herbs with my pesto. There is always plenty of mint spreading into my flower beds by late July so I pull it out by the fistful and add it to my ice tea, salads and of course pesto.

Purple basil so pretty in salads and delicious infused in vinegar.

My pesto is inspired by whatever is on hand. Sometimes I add oregano or chives, always some parsley, whatever looks good or too plentiful. Might as well use everything up while it is fragrant and mature. I have made herb pestos without any basil at all. And I am also willing to experiment with different nuts to replace pinenuts, sometimes using walnuts or almonds. My newest favorite is peppitas, the dried pumpkin seeds which add a rich earthy flavor to the savory herbs. And once made, then what? Well, pasta, naturally or topped on grilled chicken or steak. Great on a baked potato. I love a simple orzo & pesto salad I can quickly whip up on a hot sticky evening that fills everyone up and doesn't leave me wilted in the kitchen. I add cherry tomatoes or steamed broccoli for color and texture.
A chilled wine would be great with this light summer meal. What does Amanda think?


I think a fresh, white, crisp wine would be perfect with this warm-weather dish. In fact, I have the perfect wine in mind - a Gruner Veltliner. This varietal is grown primarily in Austria and around the Czech Republic. The food-friendly, crowd-pleasing, affordable Forstreiter Grooner is a fun, "everyday" lighter style which would be a perfect accompaniment to the lemon-herb flavors in the orzo. The combination of this summery fare and refreshing wine are well-suited to an afternoon brunch or backyard barbeque!

Orzo Pesto Salad

a loose cup of herbs (basil, oregano, mint, lemon balm, tarragon, chives, parsley)
1/4 cup extra virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup peppitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup grated Romano Cheese
1lb. Orzo
1 pint cherry tomatoes cut in half
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
roughly chop or tear herbs and put in food processor. add salt, garlic, peppitas and start food processor. as machine is running drizzle in the olive oil through the feed tube. the pesto should be blended, but not pureed. Add the grated cheese and pulse once or twice to blend. taste for seasoning. I like a lot of salt.

Cook orzo in boiling salted water till al dente. Drain, mix in bowl w/ pesto, olives and cherry tomatoes.

serves 4

1 comment:

  1. Mmmm. I could live off of this combo forever! I love the idea of lemon balm and tarragon in pesto-- definitely trying this soon!!!


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