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Fresh herbs at their best during summer months

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By LUCAS MIGLIORELLI

With the arrival of the hot weather I think, “What can I cook that would taste good, is fresh and will not heat up my kitchen?”

The response is easy: pesto, of course.

During summertime, our fresh herbs are at their best. Basil is the most classic Italian herb, but pesto has been taking on many other flavors. Since I’m Italo-Brazilian, I created a twist on the Italian variety for which I won a prize when I was just 18 years old at a pasta contest.

Add any herbs or even arugula, nuts, garlic, olive oil and grated cheese and nothing else. Traditionally, it is made with a mortar and pestle. The word pesto originates from “pestare,” meaning to grind or pound.

My tool of choice to make large amounts of pesto is a food processor. Use what works best for you.

Here are my three favorite recipes for pesto:

BASIL PESTO RECIPE

2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves, large stems removed

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tbsp pine nuts (walnuts are a less expensive substitute)

2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

Salt to taste

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp freshly grated Romano cheese

3 tbsp butter, softened to room temperature (optional)

Instructions:

1. Wash the basil and pat dry. Place the basil, olive oil, pine nuts, chopped garlic and salt in the food processor bowl and process to a uniform creamy consistency.

2. Place mixture in a bowl and add in the grated cheeses, stirring by hand. Once well blended, add the butter (if using) and mix thoroughly.

Pesto will keep in the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks. To freeze pesto, make the sauce up to the cheese step, but don’t add the cheese. Add the cheese when you thaw the pesto and mix it with the cooked pasta. Adding the cheese later has the best flavor and texture.

This recipe below, I invented for the contest I mentioned. All the other chefs were older and I ended up winning the first prize—a truly special day for me.

CILANTRO PESTO

1/2 cup of salted cashews

1 cup of cilantro leaves

1/2 cup coconut milk

4 tbsp of smoked hot sauce

1 tsp of cayenne pepper

3 cloves of garlic

1/4 cup of olive oil or palm tree oil

Mix all ingredients in the food processor until blended.

*You can also do it by hand, or a regular or immersion blender will work.

Other suggestions for Cilantro Pesto:

If you want to make a sauce with this pesto, just double the quantity of the coconut cream.

This pesto can be served not just on pasta, but on top of fish, grilled chicken or even eaten with crusty bread.

MINT PESTO

5 cloves garlic

1 cup of fresh mint

10 cherry tomatoes

1/2 cup roasted almonds

1 tsp coarse salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until is smooth but with some crunchy almonds.

I learned this recipe in my travels to Sicily. You can substitute the mint for basil if you desire. This is another great recipe and you can use this pesto in fish, shrimp, chicken or lamb.