As recipes are passed from friend to friend, they get adapted with new twists but you always remember the person who shared it with you first with fond memories.
Our friend, fellow photographer, and tomato grower extraordinaire Ron Goldman, has been growing organic heirloom tomatoes, from cherry to beefsteak, for some 21 years in his amazing 3500 square foot greenhouse. The lucky consumers are restaurants and farmers markets in the Washington state area. Ron was kind enough to share his recipe for Sun Dried Tomato Basil Pesto. It’s earthy, rich and versatile.
Passing on Recipes
The original recipe was shared with him by a shopper at a farmers market. He created his recipe from that conversation and I’ve made my tweaks, so this recipe has gone through several revisions. As I love the rich, concentrated flavor and deep red color of sun dried tomatoes and the sweet-licorice taste of basil, I couldn’t wait to try it.
Sun Dried Tomato Basil Pesto
Once considered gourmet and exotic, today sun dried tomatoes are a mainstream ingredient. They are readily available in both oil-packed and plain, dried versions (which need to be rehydrated in boiling water). Sun dried tomatoes are good things to keep in your pantry because you can do so many things with their rich sweet flavor.
Making a pesto is a great way to showcase the earthy richness and sweet depth of sun-dried tomatoes. Sun dried tomato pesto is incredibly versatile. What I said in my earlier “Power of Pesto” post holds true for the sun dried version as well. Pesto can transform ordinary dishes into something special in a flash, a handy trick for today’s busy cooks.
Three things I’ve done recently with this recipe: stuffed chicken breasts for dinner, made appetizers for a party, and created Panini sandwiches for a quick and satisfying lunch.
Recipe Ideas for Using Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
- Stuffed Chicken Breast – slit a pocket in a boneless, skinless chicken breast being careful not to cut all of the way through. Place 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons (depending on the size of the chicken breast) of the pesto inside. In a hot sauté pan, brown the chicken breasts in a little olive oil, then finish in a 375 degree oven until they reach 160-165 degrees on a digital thermometer. It will only take a few minutes. Remove chicken from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes. You’ll have rich, sun-dried tomato stuffed chicken to enjoy for dinner.
- Basic Appetizers – slice up a fresh baguette and use the pesto as a spread. You can toast or grill the slices a bit first (brushed with a little olive oil) if you’d like more texture and crunch.
- Fancy Appetizers and Toasted Stars – Using a 2 3/4″ star cookie cutter, cut stars out of sliced bread, brush with a little olive oil mixed with Penzeys granulated garlic and toast them in a 325 degree oven on a rimmed baking sheet until just golden. Then using a #60 round squeeze disher, I create perfect mounds of pesto on top of the stars and garnish with chopped parsley and extra shredded Parmesan cheese.
- Panini Sandwiches – spread pesto on your bread of choice. Cracked wheat sourdough and Ciabatta rolls work well. Add sliced deli turkey or leftover chicken sliced thin, maybe a slice of Swiss cheese, a few fresh basil leaves. Brush the top sparingly with a combination of equal amounts of olive oil, melted butter and a little granulated garlic. This is a mixture I always keep in the fridge, just microwave for 30 seconds. Place the sandwich on a hot Panini grill and toast until golden and crispy.
- Pasta Sauce – Toss a few tablespoons with hot pasta and a little half and half or milk and you have a creamy, flavor-packed pasta side dish. Top with simple sautéed chicken breast or grilled jumbo shrimp for a more substantial main course.
- Pizza Crust Sauce – Ron likes to spread his on a pizza crust and make homemade pizza.
- Risotto – I swirl mine into risotto for an unbeatable sun-dried tomato risotto.
Basil – You can buy large containers of fresh basil leaves in most grocery store produce sections. The recipe calls for 1 cup of packed leaves which is about 3 ounces total after you’ve removed the stems.
Nuts – Ron uses walnuts for his pesto; I use pine nuts. Both work. Sometimes I purchase the already toasted nuts and sometimes I toast my own, but buy American or Italian nuts. SOme cheap imports could leave a metallic taste in your mouth (see link to an article below).
If you have raw nuts, toast them yourself. Toasting intensifies their flavor. To toast walnuts or pine nuts pre-heat an oven to 300 degrees. Scatter the nuts on a rimmed metal baking sheet and place in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. Shake the pan once in awhile. You’ll just start to smell them when they are ready. Keep a close eye on them as nuts burn easily due to their high oil content. If you don’t have time to toast the nuts the pesto still has an incredible flavor.
Garlic – if you don’t have fresh on hand (perish the thought!) you can use the ready-to-go kind in a jar. You can always have that in the pantry, then refrigerate after opening.
Heat – Ron uses red pepper flakes. Mine was not handy so I used a pinch of cayenne pepper instead.
Sun-dried tomatoes and olive oil – I discovered that the 8.5 ounce jar of sun-dried tomatoes at Trader Joes has almost the right amount of oil for the recipe packed with the tomatoes. If you like it a bit more “wet” you can add a little more oil, another 2-4 tablespoons is good.
Some recipes make your mouth water just reading the ingredient list. This is one of them. Ron tells me it freezes well, although it has not lasted long enough around my house to worry about that!
Other links of interest
Pine Nut Mouth syndrome from cheap imported pine nuts, article ABC News Good Morning America