May 24, 2010
The Spring season brings thoughts of gardening and planting. Many peopke plant herbs to grow and nothing is easier or more fun to have in the garden than Basil. Basil is used quite often in Italian cooking but also in Asia cooking, although it is a different cultivar. Italian basil is usually called sweet basil as opoosed to Thai basil or lemon basil.
Basil is usually added at the last moment because if it is cooked to long, the delicate flavors are destroyed.
Basil is one of the main ingredients in pesto which is usually served on pasta or occasionally with bread. You can also use pesto as a way to garnish soup.
The most traditional pesto recipe is called Pesto alla Genovese. Here’s a fun youtube video of a chef explaining how to make pesto, a very easy recipe.
Pesto has a few main ingredients and then some alternatives. Some pesto recipes call for adding potatoes and green beans, others do not. The mainstays of pesto are olive oil, pine nuts, basil and pecorino cheese.
Pesto is perfect for the spring and summer and is a great way to feed many people at a party. It goes very well with Italian white wines such as Vermentino, Pigato and some Pinot Grigio from the Alto Adige.
If you have no desire to make pesto, you can buy it at the Alta Cucina Store.
August 27, 2009
All 20 of Italy’s regions have specific culinary traditions but most have at least one or two signature dishes that are on almost every menu in the region. One of the most ubiquitous and the most delicious of Ligurian treats is their homemade squiggly pasta called trofie which are generally served with pesto. Pesto can be made in a number of ways. The basic pesto ingredients are basil, garlic, pinoli nuts, cheese and oil. In Liguria, many cooks add green beans and potatoes to the dish. You can either purchase pesto or make it at home.
The pasta is a bit more laborious but here is a great recipe from a blog by Helen Rennie. Buying trofie in New York can present somewhat of a challenge but fresh pasta producers such as Raffetto’s in the West Village or Borgattis on Arthur Avenue would be a good place to begin your search.
If all of this seems too much, you can hop over to Scuderia on 6th Avenue and order this lovely dish. A great wine to drink while eating pesto is the local Vermentino, a white wine which is made in Liguria, in parts of Tuscany and in Sardinia. The best Vermentino from Liguria come from an area called Colli di Luni. This summer dish is light and is always a crowd pleaser at dinner parties as well.
Often overlooked by tourists who opt to vacation in Tuscany, Liguria has much to offer. Renowned for its small picturesque villages perched on hills overlooking the Mediterranean, it is also a wonderful place to hike as well as scuba dive or sail. Many northern Italians tend to spend their weekends here and part of the summer. Liguria can also be a great place to vacation with young children as the sea is relatively shallow and calm close to the shoreline. On your next visit, keep Liguria in mind for a holiday jaunt. You won’t be disappointed.