Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Basil Spinach Pesto

Last weekend my husband, The King of Soup as you may recall, closed down our back deck. That means all of our pots of beautiful flowers were emptied, earth saved in a large bin for next year’s planting. It also means the last of our vegetables and herbs were harvested. We got a few good-sized potatoes, and a giant pile of basil. We had left the lemongrass too long so it had to be chucked out.

The giant pile of basil meant that it was time to make pesto. Last season we experimented and came up with some kooky combinations (like basil-almond-cheddar-sundried tomato). This year we decided to keep it simple.

Here’s my recipe for Basil Spinach Pesto. You can halve this recipe easily.


4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed, washed, and spun in a salad spinner to remove excess water


2 cups baby spinach, packed, washed, and spun in a salad spinner to remove excess water


About 1 ½ cups grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup extra virgin olive oil (truth be told, I didn’t have enough so I topped it up with grapeseed oil)


½ cup pine nuts, toasted
½ cup walnuts, toasted

7 or 8 cloves of garlic, medium sized
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Put the garlic and toasted nuts into the food processor and pulse a few times til chopped. 


Add in the basil and do it again, then the spinach. Pour the oil in through the feeder tube while the machine is chopping. 


Add the cheese and salt and pepper and pulse together again. Taste it. Add more salt and pepper as required.

Bottle it up and serve with fresh pasta, in an omelette, on some baguette, on some crackers, in a risotto, mixed with potatoes (cold or hot), on a sandwich...the list goes on.

If you would like to freeze the pesto, don’t add the cheese as it doesn’t freeze well. Put the cheese-less pesto in ice cube trays and pop them in the freezer. Once frozen, pop them out into a freezer bag and store back in the freezer. When you thaw the cubes out you can add the cheese to your dish.

This makes a very excellent gift. In fact, I gave a bottle to my beautiful cousin Julia the very evening I made this batch as it was her birthday. Now her love for me is guaranteed forever.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

In my humble opinion, it doesn’t need to be specific time of the year to enjoy chocolate zucchini bread. Having said that, I usually find myself making this recipe near the end of the summer when friends with larger gardens than mine supply me with enormous, alien-like zucchinis. 

This year my regular supplier didn’t have much luck with her zucchini crop, but she was kind enough to share some with me anyway and I was able to crank out a couple of these loaves of bread. Who am I kidding – this is just chocolate cakey goodness in a loaf form.

One of the things I really love about this recipe is the combination of cinnamon, allspice and chocolate – they complement each other very well. One of the other things I really love about this recipe is the addition of chocolate chips. You don’t really need the chocolate chips because this cake is very chocolaty to begin with – but when you bite into a slice and hit one of the little pockets of melted chocolate, it takes the cake ;-)

This recipe was taken from http://www.thejoyofbaking.com/. I have not made any major adjustments because it is fantastic just as it is.

Here’s what you need to make one loaf: 

1 ½ cups raw zucchini, grated
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted (I use Frye’s and I never sift it because I am lazy)
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground allspice
½ cup safflower or canola oil (I use grapeseed oil because it’s what I always have on hand)
½ cup granulated white sugar (I often cut out the white sugar – you don’t really need it)
½ cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract (don’t bother with the fake stuff)
¾ cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and place rack in the center of the oven. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray (or butter it if you insist). Pan should be 9 x 5 x 3 inches.

In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients. Get your zucchini grated. Put your dry ingredients and zucchini to the side and get out your mixer.

Beat the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla until well-blended (about 2 minutes). Fold in the zucchini. Add the flour mixture, beating until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. 

Pour the batter into the pan and sprinkle some extra chocolate chips on top. You know you want to.


Bake until toothpick comes out clean, about 55 to 65 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes in the pan, then remove from the pan and cool completely.

This recipe makes one loaf of very yummy, very moist, delicious cake. And your kids won’t even know that there are vegetables in it. For real!