One of my dearest friends cooks, bakes, and grills like a professional chef.  She loves to chop vegetables, says things like “ramekins” and has her own tablecloth named after her—The Christine—for purchase at The Palate in Stockholm, WI:  http://www.thepalate.net/.  Preparing food has been her passion since before my husband and I met Christine and her husband, Mark, over 15 years ago.  It has been our good fortune to be the lucky recipients of many delicious meals and absolutely wonderful times in their home.  Since I am all about following our passion, this is my way of letting her have an outlet for hers.  Enjoy!

 

From Christine: This is a great meal for summer evenings and leftovers are great for lunch.

Basil is in season right now so it is easy buy some and make your own pesto.  The fresh flavors are much more intense when it is made fresh as opposed to the stuff you see in a jar at the grocery store.  Basil is so easy to grow and right now you can get a great deal on herb plants at the local nursery.  Buy a couple of plants and put them in a planter near your kitchen door, you won’t regret it.   The other great thing about pesto is that if you have any leftover you can freeze it.  I always make a double batch and then freeze the extra in ice-cube trays (used only for freezing pesto and chicken broth).  In the middle of the winter I throw a cube of pesto in my soups or spaghetti sauce and it’s a real treat.

And if the great taste of Basil wasn’t enough, it also has the added benefit of anti-inflammatory effects and anti-bacterial properties. The unique array of active constituents called flavonoids found in basil provide protection at the cellular level. Source: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=85

Pesto

2 cups fresh basil (Sometimes I throw in a handful of fresh parsley too)

1 -2 cloves garlic

1/8 cup pine nuts (you can substitute walnuts or completely leave out)

2/3 cup olive oil (the best you have)

1 tsp kosher salt

¼ tsp black pepper

½ cup grated parmesan cheese (parmagiano reggiano)

Put the nuts and garlic in a food processor (or blender) and process for about 15 seconds.  Add the basil, salt and pepper to the processor bowl.  With the processor on low, slowly add the olive oil until it is thoroughly pureed.  Add the parmesan cheese and process until it is smooth,

Grilled vegetables

1 Eggplant cut in ½” slices

3 summer squash or zucchini cut  lengthwise into ½ in slices

2 tbsp olive oil

½ tsp Dried Italian herbs

Salt and pepper to taste

Balsamic vinegar (optional)

Heat the grill to medium high. (Can also be done in your oven at 400 degrees). Mix the dried herbs into the olive oil.  Brush each side of the vegetables with the seasoned olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Place veggies on grill until softened about 2-3 minutes per side.  Remove from grill and drizzle small amount of balsamic vinegar over vegetables.

Pasta

1 lb Penne pasta

1 cup pasta water

½ cup parmesan cheese grated

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to package directions about 8-10 minutes.  Drain the pasta when it is al dente reserve 1 cup of pasta water.  Put the pasta in a large serving bowl and add ½ cup parmesan cheese.  Add the pesto sauce and add the pasta water to thin out the pesto sauce and coat the pasta.

Slice the grilled veggies into serving pieces and add to the pasta.  Add salt and pepper to taste.