Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Healthy Midweek Meal

While fresh basil is not quite in season yet, the unusually hot weather we experienced here in Rhode Island this week had me craving this lighter version of basil pesto.
Locally my mother is known as the “pesto queen” since during my childhood she ran a small pesto making business, selling it by the gallon to local restaurants and gourmet shops throughout South County. Every summer she would grow a large garden of basil, and would spend July and August weeding and later harvesting the basil in huge quantities. She did most of this herself, but would also often enlist local teenagers and more help from wonderful friends and neighbors.
Harvesting was a long process: we would clip the basil and put it on a big white sheet, which we would then carry over to a kiddie pool full of cold water where it would be washed thoroughly (this was a nice job on hot, humid August afternoons). Once it was washed it was put out to dry on big screens in the sunshine. When the basil was dry it was transferred back to a big white sheet which was put on the ground and then surrounded by “basil strippers.” This sounds exciting, I know, and while actual stripping would have been way more fun, these strippers were just lots of people sitting in beach chairs “stripping” the basil leaves off the stems. This took a long time, especially for the younger kids, and my mother would often get us to help by offering us ice cream sandwiches as incentive (which worked for me, obviously). Once all the basil was stripped it was transported in big baskets into the kitchen, where my mother would stand for hours feeding the basil leaves into an old meat grinder, which turned the basil into a dark green paste. The meat grinder always horrified me because I knew that if I stuck my fingers into while it was on, it would grind them up. Scary! The ground up basil was then put in the big freezer down stairs and frozen until my mother would get a pesto order.
This pesto recipe however, is not her famous one. I will post that someday I promise. Instead, this pesto is one that is much lighter and therefore more “figure friendly,” since most of the olive oil is replaced with chicken or vegetable stock. While this may not sound appetizing, the minced basil with garlic, pine nuts, and cheese makes it equally delectable. Put it over whole wheat pasta, along with some cheery tomatoes and grilled chicken thrown in and it is a really healthy and satisfying meal.
Simon also made a very tasty Bloody Mary Tuesday night, garnished with the last of my dilly beans from the summer. And the garden is now full of delicious salad greens, which we also ate, tossed with lots of balsamic vinegar and salt.

Figure Friendly Pesto

2 c. fresh basil, packed

2 cloves of garlic

¼- ½ c grated Parmesan cheese

¼. c pine nuts

¼ low sodium chicken stock

3 Tbs. olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Put everything in the food processor and pulse until it is a paste. Enjoy!

Add any of the following: grilled chopped chicken, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, sautéed zucchini, grilled shrimp etc.


  1. yoour pesto looks beautiful as we sit here in hot Arezzo at the Clock Bar missing you all... planted tomatoes with Niccolina this afternoon... tonight we go to eat pizzas baked by the soccer playing kids in you.M&D
    there is a wild accordian just outside playing up a storm

  2. Yum! And no fair...I want to be in Italy too!

    Great blog, Sophie! :)

  3. I just made this pesto Soph, and it was delish! Thanks for keeping our figures friendly! :)

    And how nice to read about your mother making pesto and all the incentives she would have to come up with to get the kids involved. My grandmother used to do the same with us, her grandkids when she needed help making big batches of fresh pasta. she would give us enough change to get bubble-gum... it was a big treat for communism to democracy transition kids.

    xo, Lili