Monday, June 18, 2007

Ina's Pesto Pea (Spinach) Salad

Sorry about the blurred photo. I enhanced it as much as possible in my photo program, but this is as good as it gets. We had the family for dinner to celebrate Father's Day, and I quickly snapped this and didn't check it before shutting off the camera. When you do a close-up with a digital camera, it's harder to keep perfectly still, so I try to be very conscious of that when I finally click the shutter.

But, that doesn't mean the salad isn't wonderful. I saw Ina Garten demonstrate this on her food network program, probably 2 years ago. It's from her book, Barefoot Contessa at Home. Maybe the peas and spinach seem like an unlikely combination, but it sure works. Over the years I've used pesto in pasta dishes, of course, and to dollop on the top of certain soups, and as a dip, but never would have considered it as a salad dressing. I had some homemade pesto in the refrigerator, so this was a simple dish to throw together. Trader Joe's carries a baby spinach, which is preferable here. Regular spinach is just too big for a salad - the pieces are too large without cutting them. I suppose you could do that, but the baby spinach just makes it so simple. I do tear off some of the larger stems, but most of them stay in the salad.

I find this salad goes so very well with a grilled dinner - chicken, steaks, pork chops, even fish. I hate to sound redundant, but this salad is SO simple. You just have to toast the pine nuts (I use a nonstick frying pan) and I caution you if you haven't done this before - watch the pan very very carefully or they will burn. Pine nuts contain a high percentage of oil, so they burn very rapidly. I keep pine nuts in the freezer at all times, so just remove what you need for a meal.

And, the other thing I do is add more Parmesan cheese (that's my addition to Ina's recipe). Often, I believe, when you buy ready-made pesto, it doesn't contain as much cheese as your own homemade variety, so I add some to the salad itself. It adds some color contrast too.

Pesto Pea (Spinach) Salad
Recipe: Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten
Servings : 4

2 cups frozen peas -- baby peas, if possible
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 1/2 cups spinach leaves -- baby spinach, if possible
4 tablespoons pesto sauce
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1. If you're in a hurry, run hot water over the peas; otherwise, defrost them in the refrigerator for several hours.
2. Toast the pine nuts in a frying pan until golden brown. Watch them carefully as they burn quickly.
3. Place the spinach leaves in a salad bowl. Sprinkle with peas. Add pesto and toss. Sprinkle Parmesan and pine nuts on top and serve.

Serving Ideas : Is a GREAT addition to a barbecue dinner. The original recipe doesn't call for the Parmesan, but I just added a little bit on top and thought it was a nice addition NOTES : If you want to make Ina Garten's pesto for this: In a food processor combine 1/4 cup walnuts, 1/4 cup pine nuts and about 9 medium garlic cloves, peeled. Process for about 30 seconds. Add 5 cups of basil leaves, 1 tsp kosher salt and 1 tsp black pepper. With the processor running, slowly pour in 1 1/2 cups good olive oil through the feed tube and process until the pesto is finely pureed. Add 1 cup Parmesan cheese and puree for about 30 more seconds, stopping once to scrape down the sides. Pour into a tall container and float a little olive oil on top and store in refrigerator. Makes about 2 cups - a lot more than you need for the salad recipe. This salad likes a generous amount of pesto - the tendency is to not do enough. However, there's a fine line - don't add too much, either. So, taste as you go.
Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 171 Calories; 10g Fat (52.3% calories from fat); 9g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 4g Dietary Fiber; 6mg Cholesterol; 245mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Vegetable; 1 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
For a printable recipe, click on the title at the top.

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