Pistachio Pesto

After one of the driest summers on record here in Philadelphia, not much survived in our garden. The tomato plants struggled to stay green and budded only a few little tomatoes. The cucumber plant managed to grow a couple of little cucumbers and one large one following one of our only heavy rains of the summer. But one plant did not let us down this summer and that was our Basil plant. Long, fragrant green basil leaves sprouted again and again from our humble garden. Temperatures dropped last week, sometimes in the 50s overnight. I feared the Basil plant would soon be no more, so I it was time to harvest.

I knew exactly what I would do with the Basil harvest. Pistachio Pesto would be the fate of my plentiful Basil leaves. After snipping away at the plant for a while, I thoroughly washed my garden green before concocting a pure and beautiful pesto. I say pure because I usually cut the Basil with spinach leaves to save a bit on pricey store-bought Basil. When your garden supplies for free, there is no reason to use spinach. With a bag of freshly shelled pistachios in my pantry, I chose to use this nut instead of the traditional pine nut. By the way, any nut can make a fabulous flavor burst within a pesto. My favorites are pistachio, walnut, and the pine nut. With my pistachios on hand, olive oil, fresh lemon zest and juice, fresh garlic, salt and pepper, and of course a giant pile of Basil leaves, I was ready to make a beautifully simple pesto.

Lizzy M.'s Pistachio Pesto

1 large bunch fresh Basil leaves
4 oz. pistachio nuts, shelled
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp lemon zest
Juice of one lemon
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a food processor, blend the pistachios and garlic cloves until it looks like a bread crumb mixture.

2. Add in the lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper and basil leaves.

3. Using the opening at the top of the food processor, slowly steam in the extra virgin olive oil as the ingredients blend together. Continue until a green colored almost creamy mixture forms and then you have your pesto!

4. Use pesto immediately or portion into small plastic bags, which can be stored in the freezer until ready to use. For frozen pesto, just remove from the freezer a few hours before using. It tastes just as fresh and delicious as it would on the day it was made. This way you can enjoy undeniable decadent flavor of fresh basil even throughout the cold winter months.

Delight in the savory satisfying flavorful of pesto mixed with vegetable pasta dishes, topped on a grilled chicken breast or smeared on top of a warm flat bread topped with cheese. Your pesto can even make a fabulous, tangy dressing on any salad or pasta salad by just adding a touch of red wine vinegar to thin out the pesto. Grill or saute all of your favorite vegetables and toss in pesto for a healthful, comforting meal.

Make your pesto today with the last of the summer Basil, so you can partake all year round!


Down on the Ranch Chickpeas

This is not my first commentary on chickpeas, garbanzo beans, whatever you like to call them. Last year I wrote about a piece called "Best. Snack. Ever.", which was true in that much more innocent time in my life. Chickpeas roasting up in the pan with cooking spray topped with Parmesan or Romano cheese, salt, pepper and garlic was amazing. I thought it didn't get much better than that. Little did I know, even the "best snack ever" could be improved. It was a Friday night after a long and exhausting work week, when I craved a snack to go with my carefully picked out bottle of red wine. With little to work with in the fridge, I looked into the cabinet finding a can of chickpeas, the perfect, quick go-to snack. Friday night started out like most flipping through the channels looking for a good Friday night flick. I got out my usual colander to drain the chickpeas, the saute pan and cooking spray. As I began to roast up the chickpeas in the pan, I noticed a half-empty packet of Ranch Seasoning Mix. Something called me to pick up that Ranch seasoning and sprinkle it all over my chickpeas. And that is just what I did.

I turned the heat off and tossed the chickpeas in a healthy dose of Ranch Seasoning Mix, black pepper and Parmesan cheese. I sat down with my husband with the steamy, hot, Ranch-covered chickpeas and a glass of wine; and that is the moment when I knew how much better the best snack ever could be. The Ranch Seasoning Mix acts as a tenderizer making the chickpeas more tender and melt-in-your-mouth than before. That Ranch flavor is undeniably delicious, and it made me realize how many other things could be improved by adding Ranch Seasoning Mix. Honestly, I don't know what's in it. Are there real spices in it? Are there chemicals and preservatives? I do not know. What I do know is that everyone else in America loves Ranch Dip, Ranch Dressing and I never quite got that. I am more of a vinaigrette or Blue cheese kind of girl. As for dips, hummus is good and I am always a sucker for that Bacon and Horseradish Dip. Finally, I have found a place where I can be comfortable with the American love for Ranch. And that place is on my chickpeas.

Lizzy M.'s Down on the Ranch Chickpeas

Cooking spray
1 can chickpeas or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
3 tbsp Ranch Seasoning Mix
2 tbsp Parmesan or Romano Cheese
Dash of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Drain the canned chickpeas into a colander and rinse well. Shake well in the colander to remove any excess water.

2. Into a large saute pan, coat well with cooking spray and turn the heat to medium-high.

3. Place the chickpeas into the pan. For 2 people use half of a can and for 4 people use a whole can.

4. Toss the chickpeas in the pan while they cook, so they roast evenly. Continue to cook them until they browned and then lower the heat.

5. Add the Ranch Seasoning Mix, the Parmesan or Romano cheese, salt and pepper and toss well. Once the ingredient are mixed well then turn the heat off, pour into a bowl and serve piping hot!

Best. Snack. Ever. Just got better! Enjoy!
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