Basil and Other Leaves in the Hood

October 22 – October 28, 2018

Leaves in the Hood

Leaves in the hood, one day after the yard was cleared


Monday:               Left-over Chicken and Mashed Potatoes with Fennel / Salad with Fried Thyme Vinaigrette

penne pesto

Tuesday:               Penne with Pesto Genovese, Salad

Chicken charred cabbage soup

Wednesday:          Chicken Soup with Charred Cabbage / Baguette from Five-Points Bakery

Ham Sandwich

Ham and Swiss on Five-Points Bakery’s French Loaf

Thursday:             Dunnings

shrimp bowl 2

Friday:                 Citrus Shrimp Rice Bowls


Saturday:              Home-made Pizza / Salad

Beef Stew

Sunday:                Yogurt Dip with Vegetables and Crackers / Beef Stew with Scotch Whisky and Lemon / Cheese and Walnuts


“Garlic is divine.  Few items can taste so many distinct ways, handled correctly.  Misuse of garlic is a crime.  Old garlic, burnt garlic . . . garlic that has been tragically squashed through one of those abominations, the garlic press, are all disgusting.  Please treat your garlic with respect. . . Nothing will permeate your food more irrevocably and irreparably than burnt or rancid garlic.  Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screw-top jars.  Too lazy to peel fresh?  You don’t deserve to eat garlic.”

 – Anthony Bourdain

Well, Tony seems to us to have identified one of the problems with garlic in cooking – burning it.  That horrid smell I always encountered in the corridor of Terminal B at the Philadelphia airport (I forget the name of the restaurant and wouldn’t give them the free advertisement in any event) was burnt garlic.  How anyone could eat there – I had trouble walking by the place – is beyond me.

But there is another problem with garlic – its overuse.  It simply kills too many dishes in too many restaurants, and makes too many diners unwelcome seatmates at business conferences, in airplanes, at sporting events.  In Italy, garlic is used more sparingly, or not at all, in our experience.  (In Marcella Cucina, a cookbook by the maven of Italian cooking – Marcella Hazen – over 1/3 of the pasta sauces have no garlic.  You could look it up, as I just did.)

But the final problem with garlic is its under-use.

So, we were very happy when we discovered, in a Milk Street Magazine story, that in the pesto made in Genoa, garlic is more of a hint than a flavor.  The young chef they sent over to explore Italian recipes was surprised and delighted.  He spread the pesto on toast for breakfast, used it on sandwiches for lunch and, of course, dropped large spoons full of it into pasta dishes.

We have been making pesto for some time without garlic.  We can make it salty and peppery, but it’s still a bit bland.  But this recipe gave us the go-ahead to use just a little garlic to create a deeper flavor and, if we do say so ourselves, a knockout pesto.  It also taught us not to use so much oil – the Genovese pesto is much drier and uses a much higher ratio of basil than the pesto recipes common in America.

By the by, this recipe explained completely what has been bothering us about the spread of pesto in the land.  (Jess, Harry’s friend in When Harry Met Sally, said that “Pesto is the quiche of the 80s.”)

And so, even though our beef stew with Scotch and lemon zest was the best meal of the week (we’re going to cook it again, for sure, and we’ll share it with you then), you get the immensely simpler, ready-to-go in 20 minutes after you get home from work, Penne with Pesto alla Genovese.  And really, you ought to be thankful you got even that –this third week of SWMBO’s retirement has been exhausting.  There is simply no slacking off when she is in the house.

That beef stew, by the way, was cooked the day before the Steelers immensely enjoyable win over the Cleveland Browns which UFR and I attended (as we do all home games), so that when we stumbled in from the game and two visits, one pre-game, one post-game, to Max’s Allegheny Tavern, all that needed to be done was to add some mushrooms and lemon zest, reheat, add a little roux to thicken and serve.  The perfect end to a pretty nifty day.  But hey – here’s a recipe for when you’re totally sober, just got back from a long day at the office and want something satisfying and healthy that doesn’t require any heavy lifting.



(adapted from Milk Street Magazine)

Note:  “Pesto” means broken down and mixed with a pestle and mortar.  This recipe calls for mixing in a food processor.  You are welcome to break out the pestle and mortar for authenticity.  But your forearms will look like Popeye’s, and you’ll be pestling away for a good half-hour.

Note on Ingredients:

We had no pine nuts, so we substituted almonds and made a very fine pesto, indeed.  If you do use pine nuts, do not toast them.

Timing:                                    5 minutes


This recipe makes enough to feed 6-8 is used as a pasta sauce

1 ¾ ounces of Parmigiano, chopped into rough 1-inch pieces.  [Yes, I know, you are wondering how the hell to get exactly 1 ¾ ounces of parmigiano.  Don’t worry about being exact.  Look at the label on your hunk of parmigiano and take a guess as to how much of it, without the rind, by the way, is about 1 ¾ ounces.

Note:  Milk Street says that you can substitute Pecorino Sardo or Manchego for the Parmigiano Reggiano.  I’m sure that’s fine, but stick with the Parmigiano, it’s easier to find.

1 ounce Pecorino Sardo (just use more Parmigiano, if you can’t find this cheese.  Don’t use regular Pecorino)

¼ cup pine nuts, raw

2 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled (we used 1)

Kosher Salt

1/3 Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

2 ½ ounces Basil – about 5 cups of lightly-packed leaves

Make the Pesto:

Process both cheeses in a food processor until broken into marble-sized pieces – 10 seconds.  Then pulse until they resemble coarse sand.  Transfer to a bowl.

In the food processor, combine the pine nuts, garlic and ¾ teaspoon of salt and process until you have a peanut butter-like paste – about 1 minute.

Add the cheese back in and about ½ of the olive oil.  Process until smooth – 10-20 seconds.  The mixture should hold together when pressed against the side of the processor.

Using a very sharp chef’s knife , roughly chop the basil and add to the processor.

Pulse maybe 10 times, scraping the bowl down as needed, until the basil is finely chopped and well combined.

Add the remaining oil (we didn’t add it all) and pulse just until incorporated – 2 pulses or so.

The pesto should be thick, creamy and spreadable.

pesto penne plate

EXTRA – Penne with Pesto alla Genovese

(the Penne was our idea – Rigate, because it’s ridges capture the pesto. But we’re going to try this again with spaghetti, some good deli ham and cherry tomatoes.  It should work well with macaroni, farfelle – or any other pasta that has nooks and crannies to coat.  And don’t forget to try it on toast or muffins and sandwiches)

Cook Penne to al dente.  Reserve some of the pasta water before draining.  Add the penne back into the pot you cooked it in and add generous amounts of pesto to coat.  Thin with some of the pasta water which will also help the pesto to coat the penne, because of the starch in it.  Add more pesto or pasta water to suit yourself.  Taste and season with more salt, if necessary.  Enjoy.



2 thoughts on “Basil and Other Leaves in the Hood

Leave a Reply