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Archive for the ‘Parmesan’ Category

Every time your BMG (BNG?  Bad Nonna Genny for today’s recipe?) walks up to the front door, she’s bombarded with a cloud of basil ambrosia.  But she knows it won’t last forever.  Soon she’ll be wailing and gnashing her teeth and rending The Boy’s garments (what?  They’re not as cute as hers) because she can’t get fresh basil anymore.  But she will be encouraged to know that, despite the lack of basil ambrosia in her life, despite the fact that she seems to have reverted to speaking of herself in the third person, there is basilage to be had, and it’s as close as the freezer.

Pesto, peeps!  During the summer I make a fresh batch every week, which is about as long as it takes for the monster plants at the front door to become unwieldy again.  Then I drop it by tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper sheets, roll up the paper, bag it, and stick it in the freezer.  By the end of September, I’ve got rolls and rolls of pesto like herbaceous green button candy, and it sees me through until the next year’s plants kick into SEARCH AND FUCKING DESTROY mode.

I keep the pesto on the thick side–easy to spoon, and it stays concentrated so I can use it however which way I like.

SOME EXAMPLES OF HOWEVER WHICH WAY I LIKE:

*Folded full-strength into some softened butter for rolls
*Dropped into soup or stew for quick seasoning
*Thinned with a little pasta cooking water and tossed with your favorite noodles
*Under my arms–all-natural deodorant! (“Is she joking? I hope she’s joking.”)
*Creamed into mayonnaise and adorning a BLT
*Thinned out with some vinegar and drizzled over a salad
*As a cool hipster-y lip gloss (“Where is she going with all these body product jokes?”)
*Spread thinly onto a pizza crust in place of red sauce
*Whisked into scrambled eggs
*Layered in a tomato and mozzarella pie, topped with a biscuit crust
*As an all-natural, scented lube! (“Oh dear God.”)

Okay, so would you like to know how to execute this most marvelous and simple yet impressive feat of domesticity, or would you like your Bad Nonna Genny to give you increasingly more suggestive uses for pes–

–Oh, you’d like the recipe?  Okay, then.

5 Minute Pesto Buttons
Makes about 8 buttons, each button equal to approx. 1 1/2 tablespoons pesto

Go Get:
2 cups packed basil leaves
1/4 cup nuts (pine nuts are traditional, but I’ve used walnuts, almonds, pecans, sunflower seeds, etc. with great results–today I started with slivered almonds)
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano Cheese (BNG is never without it, parmesan is a good substitute)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt ‘n Pepa (the hip-hop duo from the ’90’s, not the seasonings.  Okay, fine, I meant the seasonings.)
olive oil (this isn’t exact, but it’s usually around 1/4 cup)

Go Do:
Okay, now toss those basil leaves into the bowl of your food processor.

Now add in the garlic cloves, a few shakes of salt and pepper, and cheese.

Now toss those nuts into a dry skillet, turn the heat to medium, and agitate things around until it’s all toasty–shouldn’t take more than a minute, and they’re usually done when you start to smell them.  Observe!

Now drop in those nuts and give the food processor a few good pulses until everything’s all macerated.  Now start the motor running and slowly drizzle in olive oil through the feed tube in the top.  You should see things start to form a paste.  You can add a little more if need be, but I’d just take off the top and check before you do that, just to make sure the oil’s being incorporated.  When things form a loose paste, you’re done!  Check it for Salt ‘n Pepa (the seasonings, not the ’90’s hip-hop duo), and adjust accordingly.

Now put out a sheet of wax paper and drop the pesto by rounded tablespoonfuls onto the sheet, about 2 inches apart.  Lay another sheet of wax paper on top, lightly flatten the pesto mounds into thick, flat buttons for easier storage, and gently roll it up.  Pop the roll into a bag, stick it into the freezer, and rest easy, misfits.

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Folks, I’m going to be brutally honest with you.  Your Bad Mama Genny just hasn’t had the time or the inclination to impress anyone lately.

Firstly because I’ve been really busy, what with deadlines and watering the jungle and attending the National Homebrewer’s Conference with The Boy.  But also because impressing people can be problematic.  It can raise expectations.  It can set the bar too high.

It can result in people expecting you to be decent.

And who wants that?  Then when you decide to be indecent, people are all shocked and all offended and all put your pants back on and oh think of the children and whatnot.

See what I mean?  Totally not cool.

That’s why you need a good Antipasti Platter like this one in your arsenal.  Because if you’re anything like me, which for your sake I hope you’re not but let’s pretend, you’ve already been invited to at least fifty barbecues this summer and half of them fall on the same weekend.

That’s not good.  That’s not good for anyone.

Least of all people of the pale persuasion, like myself.  But the point is, you’re usually expected to bring something to said barbecue, and not having enough time to make something from scratch can render one sad, depressed, listless, and prone to alternating crying jags and fits of mania.

This just in: The Boy has informed me that neither fits of mania nor crying jags are verifiable symptoms of being invited to barbecues.  Thanks, The Boy.  I so appreciate your contribution to this blog post.  I hope that knowledge gives you peace as you sleep on the couch tonight.

Anyway, Antipasti platters, in case you haven’t noticed, are gorgeous.  They can also theoretically be constructed from all store-bought ingredients.  Granted, I threw a loaf of from-scratch baked artisan bread in with mine, but bread-baking is like breathing to me now, and WHAT NOW YOU DON’T WANT ME TO BREATHE I DO SO MUCH FOR YOU AND SLAVE AWAY AT THIS KEYBOARD AND NOW YOU CRITICIZE MY BREAD-BAKING ADDICTION HOW ABOUT I CRITICIZE YOUR ADDICTIONS HUH HOW ABOUT I MENTION THE LITTLE DEBBIES HIDDEN IN YOUR JUNK DRAWER OH WHAT’S THAT YOU DON’T WANT TO CRITICIZE ME ANYMORE THAT’S NICE I THOUGHT SO.

What in the hell was I saying?

Oh, yeah.  So you could throw in a loaf of fancy schmancy bread and some dipping oil with this here Antipasti Platter, but some nice skinny breadsticks from the grocery store would do just as well.  I also included some homemade arugula pesto butter, fresh apricot preserves, and some homemade ricotta, which is always inexplicably appearing at the back of my refrigerator (I said, INEXPLICABLY, and I meant, INEXPLICABLY).

But let’s get down to business, shall we?  Here are my suggestions for an appetizer that will have everyone stuffing their faces while simultaneously not raising their expectations of you.  Wanna send them over the moon?  Bring a nice, juicy, full-bodied red wine to serve with this.

But they might start expecting things.  I’m just warning you.

Antipasti Platter

Go Get:
Pepperoncini
Fresh Mozzarella Balls (either marinated or not, up to you)
Thinly sliced prosciutto
Marinated and quartered artichoke hearts
Roasted red peppers, marinated or not
Mixed marinated olives (I like to use kalamatas and stuffed green Spanish olives, but you feel free to go nuts)
Thinly sliced salami
Cubed provolone
Other options not pictured here:
Additional hams and sausages such as serrano, chorizo, etc.
Pickled cornichons
Sundried tomatoes
Infused olive oils
Roasted and mashed garlic cloves
Some nice pesto
Those apricot preserves I talked about
That fresh, homemade ricotta cheese I mentioned
Those delicious breadsticks, or that crusty home-baked artisan bread I noted
Some thin shavings of aged parmesan
Small cubes of a sweet melon, such as cantaloupe
Your firstborn child (Just kidding.  Mostly.)

Go Do:
Arrange this bad boy however you like.  As you can see, I used a decorative 13 x 9 dish with the ingredients arranged in rows, but a large, round serving platter with ingredients lined up in concentric circles or pie wedges would be striking as well.  Butters, oils, and soft cheeses can take up residence in ramekins that you smush onto the plate.  Breadsticks look striking in a tall glass, and a fresh loaf of bread would be just dandy in a kitchen towel set in a basket.

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