CREAMY BASIL PESTO

CREAMY BASIL PESTO

Made from fresh garlic, onion, basil and tofu with extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon. Combined with a cooked Kalamata olive, mushroom and roasted pepper antipasto with grape tomatoes. Flavored with whiskey. Tossed with bite-sized rigatoni pasta and topped with smoked almond crumbles and additional grape tomatoes. Extra special!

Makes 6-8 servings

1 c. whole smoked almonds; process in food processor till mealy, then till crumbles start binding together; transfer to bowl and set aside, then wipe processor clean with paper towels. We’re using the crumbles for garnish.

2 c. moderately firmly packed fresh basil leaves

4 lg. fresh peeled garlic cloves, coarsely cut

½ sm. onion, peeled and cut into chunks

3 T. juice of fresh lemon

2 t. salt

12.3 oz. pkg. extra firm silken-type tofu

1 T. sugar

1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

In food processor, place basil and garlic. Process till a fine dice is achieved.

Add onion and process till mealy.

Add lemon juice, salt, tofu and sugar. Process till well-blended, pushing down insides of container with spatula as needed.

Add olive oil and process till creamy. Set aside.

1 pt. sm. red grape tomatoes, cut in half, save out a few for garnish

20 whole, pitted Kalamata olives, cut into 3rds

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

3 fresh peeled garlic cloves, finely chopped

4.5 oz. jar sliced mushrooms including liquid

7 oz. jar sweet red roasted peppers including liquid, cut into 1 x ½ inch strips,

½ t. ground allspice

2 t. sugar

1 T. ground fennel seed

1/3 c. whiskey (I used Black Velvet)

1 t. aromatic bitters

a few grape tomatoes for garnish

additional chopped basil for garnish

In medium skillet, over medium heat, place grape tomatoes (minus a few for garnish), Kalamata olives, garlic, mushrooms plus liquid, roasted pepper strips plus liquid, and allspice. Stir, then boil at a soft boil till liquid reduces by about one half.

Add sugar, fennel and whiskey. Continue to cook to reduce liquid till almost gone.

Immediately turn heat off and add Creamy Basil Pesto. Stir and fold to distribute and coat veggies evenly. Add 1 teaspoon of aromatic bitters, no more.

1 lb. bite-sized rigatoni pasta, or penne, cooked in lots of boiling, sufficiently salted water till tender. Drain, rinse briefly under cold water and return to pot.

Pour sauce over pasta and gently toss; do not over-stir, just coat; you don’t want the pasta and sauce to gum up, and that’s what happens when you over-stir any pasta and sauce.

Spoon onto individual dinner plates. Top each serving with a 2-3 tomatoes, then sprinkle with almond crumbles. If desired sprinkle with fresh cracked pepper.

Notes: A great dish to serve for a special occasion, for the special people in your life. Not all pestos have to be the same or to be served the same way. It’s good and fun to put a new twist on old favorites.

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