Pesto for a Potluck

Top tip: trim your basil just above a pair of leaves and the plants will get bushier instead of leggy.

This past Sunday, the congregation where I worship held a potluck lunch to go along with our semiannual meeting. I signed up to bring pasta salad because there has to be pasta salad at a potluck.  Pasta salad is one of those dishes that does not really need a recipe. All one has to do is cook pasta then add a few vegetables and some dressing. In a pinch, the vegetables could be left out. Since we all need to get our daily allotment of veggies, however, I do not recommend this option.

An easy cheat is to cover your pasta and veggies with bottled pesto or salad dressing. I have absolutely done just that in the past. I was not prepared to do that this time. Not when I have a plethora of herbs available in the Food It Yourself garden. I made my own pesto dressing and it was really, really, really easy.

The process actually started on Friday. Like soup, onion dip and meatloaf, pasta salad is better if it is made the day before it is served. Pesto and salad dressing should ideally sit for a day at least before use. Realistically, I could have made the pesto and assembled the salad on Saturday, but I was a little paranoid about that wily woodchuck getting to my basil before I did.

First I cut a little each of basil, chive, thyme, parsley, and oregano. I left out the sage and rosemary because I do not really like how they taste raw. I also left out the cilantro because many people do not like the taste of it at all. The next step, obviously, was to wash all the herbs I had cut.

After a really good rinse to remove any and all dirt I let the herbs dry. You do not want to water down this fragrant mix of deliciousness. I kept the stalks on the parsley leaves and just snipped the chives into small bits with scissors. For the rest of the herbs, I removed the leaves from the stems.

Based on the amount of prepared leaves I selected our mini blender for the pulverization step. I added a splash of lemon juice (yup, the bottled stuff), and a drizzle of olive oil. I totally eyeballed it, but the liquid came about a quarter as high as the herbs. Just a minute or so of blending and look at that green beauty! If you have never cooked with fresh herbs you really need to try it. The smell is amazing.  I transferred the pesto to a jar and set it in the refrigerator.

Saturday afternoon I boiled a pound of pasta. Another top tip: read your boxes. Some companies are puting less than 16 oz. of pasta in each box. I found a box that is still one whole pound, and it was the store brand so it cost $1. Win and win. In the background you can see the four ribs of celery, two red bell peppers, and the English cucumber I diced.

With the pasta cooked and drained I combined everything in my biggest bowl. I used the entire batch of pesto and it was the right amount. I added a judicious sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese and checked the taste. It was just salty enough. Many pasta salad recipes call for running cold water over the cooked pasta before combining. However, hot pasta will absorb the pesto flavor better.

After an overnight chill, it was off to the potluck. I know pride is a sin, but I was definitely proud to share a dish made with a few home grown ingredients. Sharing food and faith makes talking about funding just a little less frustrating. What is your favorite DIYet-friendly potluck dish? share in the comments section.