As I mentioned in an earlier post, the family veggie garden is off to a promising start. Our herb garden is thriving too. This year we’ve planted rosemary, lemon thyme, pineapple sage and basil. The rosemary and lemon thyme get ample attention in my kitchen in dishes such as Barbecue Shrimp and Grilled Lamb Chops. The pineapple sage is new to me and my garden–I’m exploring ways to use it with pork and incorporate it into cocktails and maybe even ice cream. I’ll let you know if I have any success with that. The basil is like an old, faithful friend. It’s my summer entertaining partner thanks to its tender, heat-loving and vibrant ways. That’s why I’ve decided to give it a starring role in today’s finger food, Goat Cheese and Pesto Dip. This dip sings of summer! Just the smell of it puts me in a good mood! I start by making a homemade Basil Pesto. I then mix the pesto with tangy goat cheese for pop and cream cheese for balance. It’s a combination that’s hard to top. I make this picking food several times throughout the summer for family and friends and it’s always a big hit!
One thing to keep in mind with this recipe is that there is no faking the flavor of the fresh basil. And the only way you’re going to capture its wonderfully herbaceous qualities is to make the pesto from scratch. My recipe calls for three cups of lightly packed fresh basil. That’s a lot of basil to rustle up if you’re not growing your own. If that’s the case, I suggest you run to your nearest Walmart or garden center and purchase one or two basil plants. Right now you can probably get them for a couple of bucks a piece, which is a lot cheaper that dropping four bucks (times five or six) for each of those tiny fresh herb packets hanging up in the produce section of your grocery store. And, if you have a few minutes to spare (before you kick back and enjoy your dip and Happy Hour beverage), you can stick what’s left of that basil plant (a few healthy stems is all you’ll need) in front of a sunny window or in your garden and you’ll have fresh basil on hand all summer long!
I’ve chosen a nice, crisp bottle of Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc to drink with the Goat Cheese and Pesto Dip. This is a light white wine with grassy, citrusy flavors. I think it will go well with the pesto. The hubby disagrees. He thinks Miller Lite is your best bet–something about the “light piney whatever whatever.” At a minimum, you’ve gotta love his undying commitment to that beer!
Until next week …
Goat Cheese and Pesto Dip
4 ounces goat cheese
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
1 cup homemade Basil Pesto (recipe follows)
Place ingredients in a large bowl; stir until thoroughly combined. Serve immediately with chips (kettle chips are my favorite), crackers or fresh veggies. Makes about 2 cups.
2 garlic cloves, peeled
3 tablespoons raw walnuts
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or more to taste
3 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, stemmed
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Place garlic, walnuts, salt and black pepper in a blender or the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade; process to the crumb stage. Add basil and remaining ingredients; puree until smooth. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for 1 week or freeze for up to 6 months. Makes about 1 cup.