Homemade Pesto and a Great Veggie Sandwich

I spent yesterday morning at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. The Portrait Gallery is one of those museums that I always forget how much I like. Located in Penn Quarter near the Verizon Center, the museum is often forgotten since it isn’t on the National Mall, but it is a striking building with an impressive collection. The museum is hosting an exhibition of Alexander Calder’s Portraits until August 14th. I loved the juxtaposition of photographs and sketches with Calder’s creations, and I highly encourage you to check it out if you’re in the city. After all, the Smithsonian museums are all free!

As a student and a blogger, I have often found myself at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to equipment. Let’s face it: the average dorm or college row house does not come with a KitchenAid Mixer, and it’s relatively pointless for any of us to buy expensive equipment as it will get either ruined by our peers or will take up space that we simply do not have. The one piece of equipment I always wished that I had, however, was the food processor. I just signed the lease on my new apartment for law school and, with even less counter space than before, a food processor is nowhere on my horizon.

So what’s a girl to do when she wants some fresh pesto? Well, my foodprocesser-less friends, I have a solution. You can still make pesto by hand. Sure, this might seem ridiculous considering you can spend five bucks on a passable jar of pesto from Safeway, but very few things beat the taste of fresh pesto, and it’s a great recipe to have under your belt. I first saw this recipe on the Crepes of Wrath and have made it many times since. While it requires a ton of chopping, it is one of the easiest and most foolproof recipes that you’ll find for pesto. I’ve even dressed it up with some cooked green beans and potatoes for pesto genovese.

Today, however, this pesto is the star in a delicious vegetarian sandwich that tastes great during the warm summer months. Give it a try or test it out on some fresh pasta. Happy eating!

Rustic Vegetarian Panino

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices fresh bread (I used a Tuscan bread from Trader Joe’s)
  • 4 romaine lettuce leaves
  • 2-4 tablespoons homemade pesto
  • 2 oz fresh goat cheese
  • 8 sundried tomatoes, rinsed and dried if packed in oil
  • 1 yellow zucchini
  • EVOO

Directions:

  • First, lightly toast your bread. Don’t toast it too much as you’ll be grilling it/putting it on a panini press before serving. You just want it to be lightly toasted so it stands up to your pesto.
  • Next, slice up your zucchini. First cut it in half, then slice into ¼-inch slices
  • Lightly oil your grill pan or panini press and grill your zucchini slices, about 1½ minutes per side. Remove from heat and set aside
  • Now it’s time to assemble your sandwich. Spread one side of each slice of bread with some pesto. Use as much or as little as you like. I found ½-¾ teaspoon per slice works best.
  • Next, divide your lettuce between two slices of bread. Top each with ¾ oz of goat cheese.

  • Layer on your sun dried tomatoes and some grilled zucchini.
  • Spread the remaining goat cheese on the remaining slices of bread and use them to top your sandwiches.
  • Use a little oil to grease your grill pan or panini press, then grill your panini – 2 minutes per side.
  • Serve warm!

Makes two sandwiches.

Homemade Pesto
Recipe adapted from The Crepes of Wrath.
This recipe takes quite a bit of chopping, but it is totally worth the effort. Try adding to your favorite pasta, on top of some broiled salmon, or in your favorite sandwich. 

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • ½ -¾ cup freshly grated parmesan
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • EVOO

Directions:

  • First, chiffonade your basil. Then give it a quick chop with your knife.

  • Peel and smash your garlic. Place on top of the basil and begin chopping both together. Keep chopping until well minced.
  • Sprinkle your pine nuts on top and continue chopping until they are well incorporated and everything is well minced.
  • Add your parmesan on top and continue chopping until everything is very finely minced.
  • Using your hands and shape into a ball.

  • Place in a bowl and pour about 3 tablespoons of olive oil on top of the ball of pesto.
  • Refrigerate until ready to use.

Makes about ¾ cup of pesto.

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