Foodie news | Discover the power of pesto | SierraSun.com
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Foodie news | Discover the power of pesto

Chef Heather Hunsaker
Special to the Sun
Courtesy FoodontheTable.comPut a little pizazz on your table with a batch of freshly made pesto.
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TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; As rich as it is in taste, pesto sauce has a rich and flavorful history. Pesto originated hundreds of years ago in Genoa in the Liguria region of northern Italy, where basil grows wild in the Italian hills. The word pesto means and#8220;pounded,and#8221; referring to the traditional method of making pesto by grinding or pounding the ingredients using a marble mortar with a wooden pestle. Today, pesto can easily be made with a variety of ingredients in a food processor or blender.

While pesto is classically made with basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; preparing homemade pesto is really quite effortless and can be easily adapted. There are many fresh ingredients that can be substituted to make a pesto to fit your budget, meet your dietary restrictions or use ingredients you already have on hand.

Below are some suggestions on what to use as a substitute for classic pesto ingredients:

Basil: Any leafy green can be substituted for the basil in pesto; try arugula, mint, cilantro, spinach, parsley, kale, or even broccoli.

Pine nuts: Since pine nuts can be expensive and sometimes hard to find, any nut will work as a substitute. Pecans, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and cashews work well, or for a nut-free option use sunflower or pumpkin seeds.

Parmigiano-Reggiano: While the parmesan cheese adds to the unique flavor of pesto, you can leave it out or use a substitute, such as 1-2 tablespoons yeast or almond meal, for a vegan or lactose free sauce.

Additional pesto pointers

and#8226; Pesto can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about a week. Before storing cover the top of the pesto with a thin layer of oil to help prevent it from oxidizing and turning brown.

and#8226; Extra pesto can be frozen in ice cube trays and transferred to freezer safe plastic storage containers. When ready to use, simply thaw the frozen pesto in the microwave or on the stove.

and#8226; Pesto is extremely versatile and can be tossed with pasta, used as pizza sauce, a spread on sandwiches or even as a dip for veggies or chips.

Todayand#8217;s recipe creates a scrumptious pesto using arugula and pecans to transform plain tilapia into a pleasing dinner!

Baked Tilapia with Arugula and Pecan Pesto

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Serves: 4

3 cups arugula leaves, rinsed and dried

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper and salt, to taste

4 (8.0 ounce) fillets tilapia

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.

Combine 3 cups arugula, garlic, pecans, olive oil, 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, black pepper and salt in a blender and blend until it reaches the consistency of a pesto sauce.

Place the tilapia fillets in prepared pan. Spread the pesto generously on top of fillets. Sprinkle each fillet with 1/2 tablespoon of remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Bake in preheated oven until fish flakes easily, about 20 minutes.

and#8212; Chef Heather Hunsaker attended and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, but hasbeen developing family friendly meals since she was 9-years-old in her motherand#8217;s kitchen. She is an avid crockpotter and knows how to get food on the table in a pinch. She currently serves as a writer and recipe developer for meal planning site-www.foodonthetable.com.


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