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A Passion For Pesto

If you grow your own herbs, you know summer is the perfect time for pesto, with an abundance of basil in every garden.

Pesto, defined by dictionary.com as "a sauce typically made with basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and grated Parmesan blended together and served hot or cold over pasta, fish, or meat," is one of the many Italian specialties of chef Michela Larson.

She owns the Rocca Kitchen and Bar in the south end of Boston, and she accepted The Early Show's "Chef on a Shoestring" challenge Saturday of preparing a three-course meal for four on a budget of only $40.

Larson transported viewers to the Italian countryside with a menu with plenty of pesto!

MENU:

Grilled Corn with Pesto & Cheese
Grilled Pork & Pesto Paninis with assorted veggies and cheeses
Pacciugo di Portofino

FOOD FACTS

Pork Tenderloin: As the name implies, this is a very tender cut. It cooks easily and quickly, so the best methods are the fast ones: pan-frying, grilling, sautéing, broiling, and quick roasting.

Buffalo Mozzarella, also called Mozzarella di Bufala: Italian mozzarella cheese made from buffalo milk. It has a very soft and moist texture, is very bland and milky tasting, almost spongy and oozing with milk. Often served with tomatoes in a salad.

Ricotta Salata: The pressed, salted and dried variety of the traditional milky ricotta cheese. Ricotta Salata is a milky-white hard cheese used for grating or shaving, is sold in wheels, decorated by a delicate basket-weave pattern.

Italian Eggplant: Very similar in taste to the traditional American variety, except they are much smaller. Eggplants are a spongy, mild-tasting vegetable that's meaty, yet low in calories. It's never eaten raw, but can be baked, grilled, or sautéed. The best eggplants are firm and shiny eggplants with unbroken skin.

Pacciugo di Portofino: A sweet, fruity, pink concoction made with strawberry and vanilla ice cream, strawberry sauce, whipped cream and amaretti cookies. Larson did a variation of this using plums, vanilla ice cream, lemon sorbet, and whipped cream.

TAKE HOME TIPS:

  • Adding salt to the pesto in the beginning helps break down the ingredients.
  • For a more uniformed pesto, add the ingredients to a food processor.
  • If not using the pesto immediately, cover with olive oil to keep the vibrant color.

    RECIPES

    Grilled Corn with Pesto and Ricotta Salata

    4 ears of corn (husks on)
    Classic Pesto (from core recipe)
    4 quarts water
    1/4 pound Ricotta Salata (grated)

    Heat the grill to high heat.

    Soak corn in water for 20 minutes.

    Drain and shake ears before placing them on hot grill. Turn ears periodically until entire husk is blackened (about 15 minutes). Remove and peel husk and silk leaving a bit of stalk for holding.

    Spread each ear of corn with desired amount of pesto. Shave ricotta salata until covered, serve corn on the cob.

    GO TO PAGE 2 FOR MORE RECIPES