When I think of summertime, my mind goes to family days filled with long afternoons in the pool, of wet grassy ankles after running through the sprinklers on a fresh cut lawn, the unmistakable crack heard when ice cubes are released from their tray, homemade pesto and the anticipation of savory delights puffing out smoke from the old BBQ.
Food is part of every event with my family and often the most satisfying part of a day. The nature of my meal planing and food choices change with the seasons. The rising temperatures push people outside to get after chores put on hold during the colder months and working in the garden spot, trimming trees or building the new patio cover often takes precedence over meal preparation. Summertime food needs to be quick, light and tasty.
Now that said, I have been married 29 years to my high school feller, a big man, 6'5″, 300 pounds, shoulders the width of a picnic table and hands the size of dinner plates. We were blessed with two sons who took after their dad and easily stand toe to toe with him, so my version of “quick, light and tasty” actually means; quick (I am not missing all the outdoor fun stuck in the kitchen while everyone is outside playing), light (you don't feel like you need to take a nap when you're done eating) and tasty (they don't ask what's for dessert until after their 2nd helping).
In this day and age, people are busy. We are no longer working just a 9-5 schedule, we have become a 24 hour society and the food industry has responded to our needs. You can buy food in every stage of preparation, from pre-washed and pre-chopped to those requiring only reheating – all of which are very helpful for a family on the go.
While I enjoy convenience and utilize it when I need it, I was taught to cook and bake by the best ever, my mom. I learned to cook from ground up. We didn't have the extra money for all of the new, popular boxed foods that became all the rage in the 60's and 70's, so we had to cook real food from its original state. My love of cooking is in my genes and my heart is in my kitchen, doing what I love: cooking from scratch.
While I do occasionally buy pre-made items from the store, I know how easy and inexpensive they are to make homemade. Cooking from scratch allows you to hand pick ingredients, alter tastes to suit your pallet and is more cost effective, but always important in my house was that it allowed me to make whatever it was in BIG batches (did I mention I married Paul Bunyan?).
One of my favorite summertime go-to recipes is something I call Creamy Homemade Pesto Chicken. Homemade pesto sauce is a staple sauce in my house. Homemade pesto preparation is basic, and because it is ultimately all ground up together, it allows for variances in a few ingredients based on what you have on hand in the pantry. You can use white or dark meat chicken, you can spoon it over BBQ'd pork chops, drizzle it over grilled shrimp or use it as a hot dip for steamed artichokes.
Homemade Pesto with Cream
- 3 cloves garlic diced
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 2 cups clean dry basil leaves
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
- 1 1/3 cup heavy cream
- salt and pepper to taste
Pulse all ingredients except heavy cream in food processor. This makes standard basil pesto which can be stored individually (top with a think layer of olive oil when storing, to prevent discoloration).
To make creamy pesto, add 1 1/3 cups heavy cream to 2/3 cups of the basil pesto. Heat over medium-low heat and simmer until thickened. Serve immediately.
I have always had a great recipe for homemade pesto, but it was elevated to a whole, new, crazy good level after perusing the internet one day and stumbling across a food blog called DJ Foodie. He added heavy cream to his homemade pesto. By merely adding a cup or two of heavy cream to my homemade pesto, it was transformed into something just short of heaven.
Seriously, I heard angels singing. Okay, maybe it was me singing, but after tasting this awesome homemade pesto sauce I sounded like an angel…really!