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You may remember me mentioning my overabundance of basil in my recent post on pesto roasted chicken, and how I mentioned that I made a metric ton of pesto with my zillion cups of basil. I thought I would share my recipe and methodology.

One note about the recipe: The recipe I used called for pine nuts, but you could also substitute walnuts. But whatever you do, please don’t waste five dollars’ worth of pine nuts by toasting them on the stove, looking away for a moment, and burning all of them. My pesto did not contain nuts of any kind (possibly because I made this mistake, but I’ll never tell), and I also omitted the parmesan cheese since I was freezing the pesto. If you’re using pesto fresh, feel free to add parmesan or romano cheese, and experiment with the nuts.

Homemade Pesto
Adapted from Simply Recipes
Makes 1 cup pesto
Note: If you are freezing the pesto, the lemon juice helps keep the basil from oxidizing in the freezer.

You will need:
2 cloves garlic
2 cups washed and dried fresh basil leaves
1/4-1/2 c, olive oil
Juice of half a lemon (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

In a food processor, process the garlic until minced well. Add basil and a small amount of olive oil, processing until smooth between each addition. Once the basil has all been added, add lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Store in the refrigerator up to one week.

To freeze: Line an ice cube tray with plastic wrap. Spoon pesto into the tray and freeze. Life plastic wrap from tray and store frozen cubes in a zip-top plastic bag in the freezer. Defrost before using.

I have basil coming out of my ears.

A few weeks ago, I spent over an hour at the sink rinsing and stemming the basil I’d cut from my garden, and I wound up with a mixing bowl packed with fresh basil. You would have thought I had massacred the garden for this basil, but the garden appeared untouched, despite my ten cups of basil leaves. I then spent a long, long time with my mini-Cuisinart making small batches of pesto. I froze some in ice cubes, so I now have enough pesto on hand to last me through next year.  I also oven-dried some of the basil, with great success. So now, I and the basil gods offer you pesto roasted chicken.

Once you’ve made the pesto (which goes really fast if you have a larger food processor, and are not stemming and washing a zillion cups of basil, but rather a more manageable amount), this dish comes together super easy. All you do is spread the pesto on the bird, pop it in the oven, and wait. A juicy, fresh, summery roast chicken greets you after about an hour.

Pesto Roasted Chicken
Adapted from About.com: Southern Food
Serves 4

You will need:
1 roasting chicken, washed and dried
1/4 cup pesto (See this recipe to make fresh pesto, or just use the jarred stuff)
1 lemon, cut into wedges
Fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper

Rub about half of the pesto under the skin of the chicken, and about half on top of the chicken. Put the sliced lemon and fresh basil leaves in the bird cavity. Sprinkle the bird with salt and pepper. Roast in a 425 degree oven until the meatiest part of the thigh registers 165 degrees. Remove from oven and let rest about ten minutes before carving.

I would like to learn to can.

I’ve been Facebooking about this all summer. Apparently, I have an uncle who is an excellent canner and has directed me to a few online resources, such as PickYourOwn.org. I’ve been stalking and bookmarking every post on preserving from one of my favorite blogs, Simple Bites. My father has offered to set me up with a beginner’s canning set, like this one. I’ve been keeping an eye out at used book stores for one of the books in the Ball canning series.  I admire the cans in local housewares stores– the jars remind me of the glass jelly jars I used to drink juice out of when I was little. Some have the familiar diamond pattern, and others are simpler, smooth with one raised floral design. Some are large, some are short and squat, and some look so standard. But I haven’t actually canned anything.

I have a million excuses. My boyfriend and I recently moved, and who wants to move a dozen or more jars, in addition to the fourteen (!!) boxes of books? Now that we are settled in, we are still waiting for the apartment complex to finish installing our pantry. In the meantime, where would I put the cans? Not to mention, who wants to stand over a hot stove for more than an hour when it’s over 100 degrees outside? Also, I can’t afford a pressure cooker, and don’t you need one of those? But these are all just excuses, a way for me to get out of trying something new.

So I’m putting it out there. Sometime in the next few weeks, I’m going to do some sort of small-batch canning. (I mean, who needs a zillion jars of tomato sauce? Not me. Small steps, people.) A friend of mine is also excited about canning, so she and I are going to have an afternoon canning party, and I will finally get over my irrational fear of food-borne illnesses and boiling water baths. What I need from you, dear readers, are ideas.

What should I can as my first project?

I’m honestly not sure what to call this pasta. When the fork hit my mouth, I thought of gumbo and jambalaya and all those wonderful Creole flavors, although I’m not sure that was the original intent.

I also am not the designer of this dish. This dish came together after my boyfriend realized that some of the peppers from our garden needed to be eaten like, now, and we had a few other leftover veggies that were running low on shelf life. So he sautéed them in a pan with oil, boiled some water, and made me dinner. And it was delicious. And took about twenty minutes.

Creole-esque Pasta with Shrimp
Serves 2
Note: We tend to use frozen, raw shrimp. When we can find them already peeled and deveined, we do that as a time-saver. This week, we could only find deveined, but peeling them is a cinch. Just put them in a colander under running cold water (or, if you’re in Texas and in a drought, in a colander in a sinkful of cold water) and in about ten minutes, they’re soft enough to peel.

You will need:
1/2 lb. pasta
10-12 large shrimp
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
1 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Cayenne pepper, to taste (substitute with red pepper flakes, if desired)
Creole seasoning
Splash of heavy cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
Freshly grated parmesan cheese, to taste

Boil a pot of water and cook pasta according to package directions. Set aside.

Heat the oil and butter in a skillet over medium-high heat, but don’t let the butter burn. Add the shrimp and cook about 1 minute. Turn all shrimp and cook about 30 seconds. Remove from heat.*

Add onion, pepper, garlic, and spices, and cook until softened and slightly caramelized. Add pasta and shrimp to skillet and toss to coat pasta in oil and vegetables. Add cream and toss to evenly distribute. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve in bowls and top with parmesan cheese.

*The key to not overcooking shrimp is to undercook them. When you remove them from the heat to a bowl, they will continue to cook each other for a few more minutes. For pasta, they also continue cooking when you add them to the hot noodles. You want them to be just barely opaque when you cook them initially.

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