Saturday, August 28, 2010

Eat Pesto -- Scare Dracula

The kids are back in school, or they'll be going back soon. Next weekend will be your last trip to the beach or the lake or mountains.

Halloween decorations are beginning to show up in stores, which means I won't seem so weird for having them up in my house already! For those who don't know, I'm working on a Halloween book, which means I've got witches and vampires on the mind.

Your garden is uttering the last gasps of summer. The zucchini is spent. The red pepper plants have withered. The cucumbers dried up, and there are only a couple of pathetic lone tomatoes left on the vine.

But in the middle of the garden, planted last spring when you were full of hope and energy, there sits a gigantic plant, the leaves still bright in the sun. It's basil's turn to shine -- which can only mean one thing -- it's time for pesto.

I have to admit that I was not a fan of pesto until I made my own. I suspect pesto is one of those recipes that is better if you tinker with it a little bit to emphasize the flavors you prefer.

The ingredients are fairly basic. Lots of basil, pine nuts, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil. I would recommend using a mild olive oil.

A few years ago, I searched high and low for pine nuts. I found them, too. $12.99 for less than a fistful. Consequently, I am officially a believer in substituting walnuts in pesto. They're every bit as good -- maybe better.

I'm a big fan of garlic, so I'm likely to toss in an extra clove or two. Beware! This is fresh, uncooked garlic, so it has a bite. If you think you might like to use extra garlic, add it gradually. Excellent for warding off the vampires in your life, though. One little poof of air in their direction, and I promise they'll flee!


1/4 cup walnuts
2 medium size garlic cloves
2 cups packed basil leaves (washed and dried)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup olive oil

Combine the walnuts and garlic cloves in a food processor with a few leaves of basil. Pulse until the walnuts and garlic are fine. Mash in the rest of the basil leaves and spin. With the food processor running, add the olive oil in a slow drizzle. Add salt and pepper to taste and whirl one more time.

Toss with pasta, use on pizza or bruschetta, add a dollop to grilled fish, or just spread on a slice of toast for lunch! Enjoy!


  1. Oooh, that looks so good. Thanks for the recipe. I prefer walnuts in my pesto myself.


  2. Hey, Krista. I don't cook so the recipe I'll leave for other more enterprising souls. But you have totally jazzed me about Halloween. And I want to hear more about your book. Please share!

  3. Wow..i haven't heard of using walnuts...i must try that next time..thanks for the recipe!!

  4. whoop whoop... I am also a believer in the walnut pesto! I can do an awful lot with the money you pay for pine nuts, and they don't have that same rich meaty taste.

    Amen sister, amen

    Oh, and try walnut pesto on a grilled cheese sandwich... really yum!

  5. I can't remember how we lived before we discovered pesto--now we eat it about once a week (but the pine nut version). I don't love waking up tasting the garlic from the night before--but I've found that ice cream is a good way to neutralize it! The best of all worlds.

  6. Great recipe, Krista! You're right - my basil plant is full and lovely while the tomatoes are becoming scarce. This is a fabulous way to take advantage of my basil bounty. Love the idea of substituting walnuts!


  7. Interesting how much you can tinker with pesto! Thanks for all the nifty ideas and how-to's. Does that mean I can tinker with vampires, too?


  8. I like the idea of using walnuts instead. And I think my pocketbook would agree!

    I love that you've got Halloween out already for inspiration!

  9. You're so welcome, Lisa. I hope you enjoy it. I think it's better today than it was yesterday.

    Barb, you're so sweet to ask about the book. I have a Christmas book, The Diva Cooks A Goose, coming out in December, but I'm working on a Halloween book for next fall, and I have to say that it's a lot of fun to write about spooky things that go bump, and witches and vampires. I've created a legend about Viktor Luca who might, or might not, be a vampire and I'm having a ball!

    ~ Krista

  10. Suiling, try the walnuts! Dave likes them best, too. Aside from the price, I think they do add a flavor that pine nuts can't beat.

    Grilled cheese sounds great, Dave. Yum! I was thinking pesto and ham sandwich for lunch . . .

    LOL! Sheila. I *must* learn more of your eating tricks. I'm game for any reason to eat ice cream!

    Julie, our garden is wiped out, except for the herbs. Glad to know we're not alone!

    Avery, tinkering with vampires can be verrrry dangerous. Unless you eat garlicky pesto first, of course. Think of it as a coat of armor against vampires!

    Elizabeth, I think I scared some people at the beginning of the summer when I pulled out Halloween decorations. I have a pumpkin right by my desk for inspiration and that cute witch really has been on my fireplace mantel all summer!

    ~ Krista

  11. I don't think I've ever tried walnuts in my pesto.
    YUM! Can't wait to give it a go. Lovely post, Krista!

  12. Thanks, Jenn! I hope you like it with walnuts.

    ~ Krista

  13. The price of pine nuts is insane!!!! I made my first batch of "westo" this week...I changed the name due to the addition of walnuts :-) The family wasn't too impressed. I'm going to try it on grilled cheese...this sounds wonderful! Looking forward to both new books, Krista!

  14. Love this post - you are so right about Halloween already making its appearance in stores (insane how early it all begins). Christmas will be starting before the scary masks are put away! Nice tips on experimenting with your pesto, emphasizing the flavors you prefer, and I love your beautiful pics, too.

    Have a great weekend,
    ~ Cleo
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  15. Thanks so much, Nancy! The Halloween one won't be out anytime soon, but it's fun to write about. Honestly, I think pesto is better with walnuts. Don't tell the family -- bet they won't even notice!

    Thanks, Cleo! It is scary that the stores start so early -- but it does make me *seem* a little bit more normal! LOL!

    ~ Krista

  16. I also love pesto and cheese omelets. I just had one, but made with pine nuts. I'm definitely going to try walnuts for my next batch.

    Thanks for the idea!!

  17. Thanks, Krista - your suggestion urged me on, and I just finished a great dinner of penne with pesto, goat cheese, and diced heirloom tomato. I like walnuts MUCH better in my pesto, and I always add an extra clove of garlic.

    I knew my husband wouldn't eat pesto if I suggested it, so I just sat down on the couch beside him one day, casually setting a bowl of pesto and a basket of rosemary-garlic crackers between us. I acted like they were there just for me - didn't say a word, just started eating. After I sneakily waved the aroma over toward him once, his head lifted, he sniffed--and then he finished the bowl!