Monday, July 9, 2012

Oven-Roasted Tomato Basil Pesto and Ohio City Pasta

So it's finally cooled down in Crackron- I mean, er, Akron, enough to turn on the stove. I was so excited to cook again. No, really, so excited. So I ended up making a semi-elaborate meal to celebrate and spoil Guitar Boy with. 

(Read: elaborate in any incarnation over here means utilizing something other than a chopping board and a skillet to create a dish. Case in point: the Ninja blender finally, finally came out of its box.)

I took the Ninja on it's maiden chopping voyage with a pesto recipe. Well, it's really kind of like a bastardized sorta-kinda-not-really pesto, but still pesto because it looks like pesto, smells like pesto, and acts like pesto. 

And there's the rumble of angry Italian mothers coming and ready to paddle my behind.

And to make them even angrier... there's a weird ingredient in here. Just trust me though.

So I bring you oven-roasted tomato basil pesto. I shall offer this up to appease the angry Italian mothers and tell them it is divine, creamy deliciousness. They'll believe me. I think.

Get together for just over 1/2 cup worth's:
  • 2 roma tomatoes, quartered
  • 4 cloves garlic (more or less to your preference)
  • Heaping tsp peanut butter (You read that right. See below for more information.)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese or whatever you have in your pantry
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup fresh basil leaves
  • up to 1/4 cup olive oil plus more for roasting
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Now to make it:
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a small roasting pan, layer the quartered roma tomatoes skin side down and drizzle olive oil to cover. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. 
  • Take the garlic cloves paper skin-on and place into a square of aluminum foil. Drizzle olive oil to cover and sprinkle with salt and pepper as well. Wrap the garlic up tightly in the foil. 
  • Roast both in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes until tomatoes are softened and the edges slightly burnt. 
  • Take out and set aside until cooled.
  • Peel the burnt skin off the tomatoes and add to the food processor. Squeeze the garlic out of the papery skin. It's okay if it's not completely softened, we still want a bit of a bite. Add to the processor. Blitz the processor a few times to break up the tomatoes.
  • Add in this order: peanut butter, cheese, and basil leaves. Squeeze the lemon over the top. Begin pureeing.
  • While pureeing, drizzle the olive oil into the processor until it starts to become smooth and easy to puree. Be careful not to add too much that it becomes oily and runny. Stop and check and taste every so often.
  • Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  • Voila, you have oven-roasted tomato basil pesto-but-not-pesto.

Now, for those of you who raised an eyebrow at my use of peanut butter. In my defense, I'm not a fan of going out to buy a single ingredient. Besides, pine nuts, the ingredient found in pesto, are expensive. I added a teaspoon of peanut butter just to give the sauce a little bit of body and to add a slightly nutty background flavor. Also, I used the kind that is just dry roasted peanuts with sea salt, no added sugar or flavorings. It's not so much that you can sit there and say, "Oh, I taste peanuts!" because that wouldn't be so good. If you are wary, add a little bit at a time and taste, then add more and taste, you'll see the difference and improvement. However, if you rather be all traditional, by all means, throw some pine nuts in there! It's your dish after all!

I served it with this fabulous, delicious tomato basil pasta from Ohio City Pasta that I got at the farmer's market. I simply sauteed candy onions (find it at the farmer's market!) with mushrooms, then added the linguini with three spoonfuls of the pesto and a little pasta water to thin it out. 

The pizza slices you see on the plate will be another post, or else you'd be reading one uber-long post! Hungry yet?

What's your favorite pesto recipe? Traditional or off-the-wall?

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