Pesto puts in some punch

November 01, 1998|By Annette Gooch | Annette Gooch,Universal Press Syndicate

For most recipes, herbs are measured by the pinch, but a double fistful is none too much for pesto, an herb-and-garlic paste in which the main ingredient is sweet basil, with a flavor somewhere between mint and anise.

The traditional preparation method is to pound the ingredients into a paste with a mortar and pestle. Less authentic but more convenient is a food processor.

What's incontrovertible is that heat affects pesto's flavor and color. That doesn't stop some cooks from painting it over fish or vegetables to be grilled or broiled. But pesto's flavor and color are freshest when the paste is added at the last minute to cooked foods (hot pasta or nearly baked pizza) or used in uncooked dishes.

` Cole Publishing Group

Pesto Pizza

Makes about 2/3 cup pesto

PESTO:

2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons pine nuts

1/2 cup grated Gruyere, Parmesan or Romano cheese

PIZZA:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 pound button mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 to 3 cups ( 1/2 to 3/4 pound) shredded fontina cheese

2 (12-inch) or 1 (18-inch) unbaked pizza crust

Rinse basil leaves well and pat dry before measuring. In blender or food processor combine oil, lemon juice (if used) and garlic; add basil, salt, pine nuts and cheese. Blend or process until pureed. Set aside, covered.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until they are lightly browned and their liquid has cooked away. Remove from heat.

Sprinkle cheese over pizza crust(s). Arrange mushrooms over cheese.

Bake on lowest rack of oven until crust is browned (15 to 20 minutes for 12-inch pizzas; about 25 minutes for 18-inch). Spoon pesto evenly over pizza; return to oven long enough to heat through (1 to 2 minutes).

Pub date 11/1/98

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