I started this blog as a way to write about food in a liberating forum (on the web, a mistake can be fixed very easily, whereas a mistake made while at my print job is a bit more problematic). I continued it while putting together my book, “Man with a Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers Who Cook For their Families,” because it gave me an instantaneous outlet for recipes and stories during that two-plus-year period. And then in my excitement about “Man with a Pan” I started blogging every day, and that eventually took a toll. I had to dial things back, and a while ago I reduced my postings to three times a week.
By reducing my workload, I was able to continue the blog, which I love to do because it helps me keep track of what I’ve cooked (seriously, I go to that oatcake recipe at least once a week). I also hope it encourages others—mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, any and all—to cook more. The more we can cook at home, the better our lives will be.
Cutting down on my blogging fits nicely with a new promotion* that Sargento Cheese is doing called “Thin to Win,” in which folks are challenged to address “meals, overflowing closets or bad habits,” and all the "things we want to ‘thin out’ of our lives.” I’m happy to get behind this for two reasons: I always love my deli cheeses sliced razor thin—the more surface area, the greater the flavor (and if you’re interested in the flavor/calorie ratio, check out Peter Kaminsky’s new book, “Culinary Intelligence") and I’m desperately in need of thinning my life out (see above).
My challenge involves counter-top appliances that can help cut down on mealtime prep. I’m supposed to use one and reveal how much time I’ve saved. You, too, can participate by posting stories to Sargento’s Facebook page, where you’ll have a chance to win prizes. If you go there and tell a story about how you saved time with a countertop appliance, you may win a prize.
I’m a man of modest means and even more modest counter-top space. I have one go-to appliance: the blender, and it’s a real time machine. In a matter of minutes, it can turn a fragrant head of fresh basil into a tasty pesto that will last for days (and weeks, if kept in the freezer). I'm hardly the first one to think of this. The pesto sauce was developed as a way of preserving herbs. It is an ancient technique.
And the name of the sauce has an interesting background. According to Itchefs-GVCI, an online network of Italian chefs working around the globe, "in 1876, ‘pesto’ was entered by Giovanni Casaccia in his Genoese Italian dictionary as a word autochthonous of Genoa. The word comes from ‘pestare,’ to crush something with a pestle to reduce it to powder, a mash or to the thinnest of layers.”
I don't use a mortar and pestle, though there's nothing stopping you from doing so (unless you don't own one). I assume you have a blender or food processor, in which case, here’s how to make the elegant time-saving sauce that everyone loves.
- Break out the blender the day you bring the fresh basil into the house. It tends to spoil very rapidly.
- Wash the basil well and spin dry.
- Toast 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- Roughly chop three or four heads of garlic and a bit of salt (1/4 teaspoon or less)
- Blend the ingredients with enough olive oil to make a nice pesto.
- Keep in refrigerator for nights when you don’t feel like cooking.
- If so inclined, grate in fresh Parmesan when serving.
When I've done this, I’m ready, anytime I come home, to make a quick meal in the time it takes to boil the water for the pasta. If the pesto has been frozen, some can be shaved off with a knife just prior to serving, and it will melt as soon as it hits the freshly cooked pasta. It’s always nice to have pesto around the house for other reasons, too. Santa Maria likes to put it on crackers with Mozzarella and have as a snack or serve as a party appetizer. Having homemade pesto on hand is like having time in a bottle.
*About the promotion, here’s the full disclosure: I received products and compensation from Sargento Foods Inc. and The Motherhood as a part of my participation in this campaign. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this post are my own. I’ll have some coupons to share with you all in a follow-up post shortly, so this is a bit of a win-win all around, just like pesto (unless you are happen to be a head of basil—don’t be the basil).