Introducing Twelve Recipes by Cal Peternell
When we think of truly great restaurants, Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, is one of the first that comes to mind, and we’re thrilled to introduce Twelve Recipes, a new cookbook by Cal Peternell, the restaurant’s chef. Twelve Recipes is a dazzling, full-color cookbook and kitchen manual filled with lush photographs and beautiful drawings that offers basic techniques and essential recipes that will transform anyone into a confident home cook.
Based on a series of conversations Cal had with his oldest son, just off to college and cooking on his own for the first time, Twelve Recipes is the ultimate introduction to the kitchen. Peternell focuses on the core foods and dishes that comprise a successful home cook’s arsenal, each building skill upon skill—from toast, eggs, and beans, to vinaigrettes, pasta with tomato, and rice, to vegetables, soup, meats, and cake. Each tip, instruction, and recipe connects with others to weave into a larger story that illuminates the connection between food and life. A deeply personal book, it glows with warmth and humor and will be equally at home at your bedside and in your kitchen.
To start off, we’re sharing a flavorful pesto recipe that you can enjoy for the rest of the summer! We love this recipe, and Cal’s easy-going approach to it.
Maybe, like me, you’ve read pesto recipes that are so insistent on certain ingredients, tools, and techniques that after reading them you feel as if you can barely manage to pour yourself a glass of water with any authenticity, let alone achieve pesto sauce. This five-ingredient classic should be as easy to make as it is to love, and it is, especially if you have a blender. You don’t need exactly the right tiny basil leaves from a Genovese hillside garden overlooking the sea, and you don’t even need to have the mortar and pestle from which the sauce takes its name (through you ought to). You do need conviction, a generous bunch of fresh basil, decent olive oil, real Parmesan cheese, pine nuts, and garlic, and even if you don’t have them all, there are substitutions for some of them. There is no substitute for conviction. To pair with pesto, spaghetti is best. Gemelli and trofie are also wonderful.
Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 big bunch basil, leaves only (about 3 lightly packed cups)
Scant 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted tan, not brown (page 11)
1/2 teaspoon pounded garlic
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
3 ⁄8 cup olive oil
1 pound spaghetti, gemelli, or trofie
Put a big pot of cold water on to boil. Add salt.
Push half of the basil leaves down into the blender. Add the pine nuts, garlic, salt, and cheese, top with the remaining basil leaves, and push it all down hard with a spoon. Add the oil and begin the pulse and push method. You don’t want the blender to grind up only the leaves that are at the bottom, nor do you want it too finely pureed. The solution is to pulse the blender for a second, stir the contents with a spoon, and then tamp it all back down. Pulse again, push it down again. Repeat this process, taking care to remove the spoon before running the blender. (Seriously. I’ve ground the tip of a wooden spoon into pesto and it’s not good. Splintery. So now I keep the button-pushing hand away while the spoon-wielding hand is at work.) Keep going, and shortly after everyone in your house is annoyed and begging you to stop, the pesto should be ground enough so that the blades catch and it all swirls around in a fragrant green conical whirl. You can hear it when it catches and all is being pureed, not just the stuff at the bottom. Though it is glorious, let it go for only a few seconds. The pesto should have flow but still be a little chunky. If it gets pale and creamy-looking, you’ve gone too far this time, but hey, the summer’s just started. Taste and add what’s needed and then pulse a final second to mix in any additions.
When the pesto is done, cook the pasta in the salted boiling water. Stir frequently. Put the pesto sauce into your serving bowl, and just before draining the pasta, stir a little of the water into the sauce to thin it slightly and make it easier to mix. Add the drained pasta, toss, taste, correct, and serve with cheese for grating.
When good basil is not available, you can replace it with 1 bunch parsley and a small handful of marjoram leaves, and trade the pine nuts for toasted walnuts. In winter, a quarter pound of arugula can also be substituted for the out-of- season basil. This Sicilian version is spicier, though, and needs the sweetness of 1/4 cup each of pine nuts and walnuts, and 1/4 cup more grated cheese to balance out its sharpness. Mint leaves can be added to arugula pesto or used in equal parts with parsley to make an aromatic pesto of their own for pasta sauce or a salsa for grilled lamb.
In summer, line plates with sliced tomatoes and set tangles of pasta with pesto on top. In winter, slivered sun-dried tomatoes tossed in with the arugula version taste of longer, sunnier days.
There’s a point in every basil season, late in the summer, when the pesto frustratingly turns brown when it contacts the hot pasta. If this bothers you, you can boil half of the basil very briefly in the pasta water to set the color. Scoop it out quickly and drop into a bowl of cold water. When cooled, squeeze handfuls of the boiled basil to get rid of as much water as you can, chop it up a bit, and add it to the blender with the raw basil.
Make a superior potato salad with lengths of boiled green beans and halved cherry tomatoes dressed, along with the potatoes, with pesto.
Pre-order a copy of Twelve Recipes through your favorite retailer today!