Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Every once in a while I feel the intense need to clean out my pantry. For me, this isn't like cleaning out the closet, with a trash pile and a donation pile. This involves challenging myself to use the random assortment of ingredients that I've amassed over the last few months, and embarrassingly in some cases, the last few years. I have a bad habit of becoming infatuated with an ingredient and excitedly snatching it off the grocery store shelf without thinking about when exactly I'll use it. But, sometimes the urge to buy is too strong, and I convince myself that (insert hard to find ingredient here) might not be available the next time I need it, so I better buy it. In fact, I better buy two. So, the time came this week to take stock of my embarrassing leftover impulse purchases and turn them into something I could be proud of.
First I took a look at the canned section of my pantry. I love artichokes and tend to be drawn to anything containing them, including canned goods. I'd bought a can of artichoke bottoms because, well, who knew they made artichoke bottoms? I was sure at the time that I could use them to supplement a dip, but they ended up being entirely superfluous (although I stand by the idea that they could work in a dip). So, they hung out in my pantry for a few months until this week. After hightailing it to the fridge I noticed a bag of leftover sun-dried tomatoes. Granted, I'd actually gotten a lot of mileage out of these little guys--in pasta dishes, salads and a myriad other preparations--but the time had come for them to say their last goodbye. The last item I decided had to be used was a container of grated Parmesan cheese. I rarely buy it in this form and almost exclusively buy massive hunks of good Parmesan and grate it myself, but times are tough and I can no longer warrant spending the extra few dollars. It's disappointing, but sometimes foodie sacrifices have to be made.
I looked up and saw that while many of the herbs in my Aero Garden had died, the basil had taken on a frightening, foot-and-half tall life of its own. It was clear that I was to make an artichoke and sun-dried tomato pesto. But what would the vehicle for this lovely sauce be? Was it possible that I had a useless bag of pasta taking up space in my pantry? Digging a little deeper into the depths of my food supply, I found an unopened bag of...whole wheat bow-tie pasta. Only slightly less embarrassing than finding animal crackers or baby food, I racked my brain to figure out how I acquired this culinary atrocity. Finally I realized (thank goodness) that I'd taken the pasta during a pantry giveaway. The amazing food editor I'd worked with at Redbook had performed her own kitchen exorcism, generously parting with her own pantry excesses. Consumed with greed, I'd excitedly taken the pasta (among other humiliating ingredients) home with me. Once that was settled I sat down to play with my food processor and developed the recipe below. Despite my child-like pasta, the pesto came out great, and even a bit beautiful. Here's how to make it for yourself:
Artichoke and Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
2 cups fresh basil
1 1/2 cups sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 can of artichoke bottoms or hearts, well drained and roughly chopped
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp lemon juice (or 1 tsp vinegar)
extra virgin olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and slowly stream in olive oil until desired consistency is reached. I like to make mine on the thicker side, then mix it in with my cooked pasta and thin it out with the pasta water. That way you get a bit of saltiness from the water, and less oil. Enjoy!