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Traditional Basil and Garlic Pesto Spread

The tried-and-true pesto of basil and garlic is always welcome as the basis of sauces for pasta and spreads for bruschetta, crackers, and flatbreads. Hard, sharp, and dry cheeses are a particularly good accompaniment.

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 c. chopped fresh basil leaves
2/3 c. grated parmesan cheese
1/3 c. toasted pine nuts
5 heads roasted garlic
1-3 cloves fresh raw garlic
1 c. crumbled feta cheese
 olive oil
 salt and pepper to taste

PREPARATION

  1. Roast five (5) medium-sized heads of garlic. To roast, first pre-heat the oven to 250 degrees; next, use a sharp knife to slice the tapered end off of each head of garlic, exposing each clove but not breaking the head. Brush the exposed cloves with olive oil and bake cut-side down in a glass or ceramic baking dish for 30 to 45 minutes, until soft. Roasted garlic is sweet and lacks the sharp tang of the raw cloves. When done, allow to cool, then squeeze out the cloves of garlic, which should have a butter-like consistency.
  2. To bring out their flavor, pine nuts need to be toasted. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast under the broiler of a 350-degree oven until golden-brown, about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Combine the chopped fresh basil, pine nuts, roasted garlic, and parmesan cheese in a food processor or blender. While blending, slowly pour in olive oil until the mixture becomes somewhat smooth (this will probably take a cup or so of oil). Add the raw garlic cloves one at a time, testing for desired flavor in between. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Stir in the crumbled feta to taste.

Serve the pesto warm or at room temperature with fresh cheeses and crackers, or brush it onto sliced French baguette bread as the foundation of a tasty bruchetta. Add more oil and reserve the crumbled feta to make a great sauce for linguini and other pastas.

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