(Updated November 2013 - One of the best things about blogging is the amazing way that people you'll never meet in person can touch your life in the virtual world. This week the food blogging community was stunned and saddened to learn about the death of Lisa Cifelli, co-founder of The Daring Bakers, who died at the far-too-young age of 44. Through The Daring Bakers, Lis encouraged others to challenge themselves with amazing recipes for baked creations of every type, and her enthusiasm and generosity was part of the reason this blogging event eventually had thousands of contributors every month. I was never a Daring Baker, but I enjoyed following along each month as the bakers shared their posts, and I "knew" Lis through other events like the one featured below. She will be greatly missed by all who knew her, and I'm dedicating this post to her memory.)
My Italian is pretty basic, although I studied it a bit when I was going to be traveling to Italy, and I'm learning ingredient names from my great friend Ilva's blog. But I know enough Italian to guess that Festa al Fresco means something like a feast of fresh ingredients. So when I heard Ivonne of Creampuffs in Venice and Lis of La Mia Cucina were hosting La Festa al Fresco, I was excited about participating in the biggest virtual food bloggers picnic ever.
These two wonderful cooks are inviting food bloggers to post about a dish prepared using fresh ingredients from their area. Well if you've been reading my blog at all lately, you know it's all about tomatoes. Yesterday when I posted my version of for the freezer tomato sauce, I promised to come back and tell about what I made with that sauce that captured the taste of pure summer. This sun-dried tomato pesto is condensed summer in a jar, and one of the best things I've ever tasted. Quite honestly, I've been eating it for days. In fact, right after I took that photo above, I ate every bit of those whole wheat pitas spread with pesto even before the photos were edited. You simply must make this!
No, I did not dry my own tomatoes for this dish, although for years I dried tomatoes in a food dehydrator before really good sun-dried tomatoes bacame available in this area. Now that you can buy wonderful big jars of them at Costco, my favorite Buy Blue store, I don't bother with drying them myself. But this pesto does have lots of fresh basil and fresh parsley from my garden, besides the fresh tomato sauce I already mentioned, so I think it's quite al Fresco enough to qualify.
Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto or Spread
(makes about 6 cups, recipe adapted from RecipeZaar)
(You will need a food processor to make this successfully. There are many good brands, but I love my Cuisinart.)
2 cups sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
(drain oil before measuring if there is a lot)
2 cups coarsely grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4-1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4-1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup fresh tomato sauce (see below for substitutions)
6 large cloves garlic
2 T fresh lemon juice
sea salt to taste, about 2 tsp.
fresh ground black pepper to taste
Put steel blade into food processor. Add garlic cloves and process until finely chopped. (You could use the food processor to chop the basil and parsley if you wanted too, but I just chopped it with a chef's knife.)
Add sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan, olive oil, basil, parsley, tomato sauce, and lemon juice and process until mixture is well combined. I kept mine a tiny bit chunky. Season with salt and pepper, buzz for a few seconds to combine again.
(If you don't have the fresh tomatoes to make fresh tomato sauce, use 2 cans diced tomatoes, puree in food processor, then cook down to make 1 cup sauce. Cool before using in this recipe. You could also use canned tomato sauce, but the flavor would not be as fresh.)
The original recipe said this will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for a month, although it will never last that long! I am experimenting with freezing a small bit of the batch I made, (in spite of all those recipes I've read where it says to leave out the cheese if you're planning to freeze your pesto) and I'll come back and report on whether the freezing experiment was at all successful. I've frozen grated parmesan many times and the freezing just makes it a bit crumbly, so I'm hopeful.
Ideas for using Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto or Spread
- I already confessed I've been eating it for days simply spread on whole wheat pita bread. (I like Kangaroo Brand Salad Pockets if you can get them where you live.)
- Other things you could spread it on include crackers, sourdough or French bread, foccacia, flour tortillas, or Naan.
- Of course, this would be heavenly on freshly cooked pasta. (For South Beach dieters, use Dreamfield's Low-Carb Pasta.)
- I think a few tablespoons of this stirred into freshly cooked brown or white rice would make a great dish. (For South Beach Diet, use brown rice or Uncle Ben's Converted Rice.)
- I'd also like to try adding a bit of this to any tomato-based soup or stew.
- The pesto could be spread on bread to replace mayo for a turkey or chicken sandwich.
- Last, but certainly not least, I'm going to use some of what I have left as a stuffing for chicken breasts with a bit of goat cheese.