Is your pesto the best-o?

Remember when Phoebe Buffay asks that of Monica’s sous chef Tim in Friends? Tim answers that he doesn’t know if it’s the best-o but it’s pretty good-o.

I love Friends. I also love my own weird version of pesto, about two times a year, and then I’m done.

Pesto is a weird choice for me.  I’m not crazy about garlic and I hate pine nuts, which I understand are in a lot of traditional pesto recipes.  Not only do I not care for things that taste like the rosin I used to put on my violin bow (yes, I “played” violin, but never well, and I was only 11 at the time and can be forgiven for the noises I produced, which are probably still out there orbiting the planet, frightening people), but I hate the idea that pine nuts can actually alter the way you taste food.  Permanently. I read that somewhere. Even if it wasn’t true, I’m taking no chances.

So here’s my take on the summertime, kelly green treat.  I love this with toasted sourdough baguette or just a chunk pulled from the loaf and not toasted.

Non-Traditional Pesto

1/3 cup olive oil (I’m really not picky and grab cheap brands)

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (not the type that comes already grated – it’s missing something)

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (does anything smell more wonderful?)

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

1/2 teaspoon salt (optional; my last batch was a little too salty and parmesan is also salty)

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (fresh grated is nice but not mandatory)

Throw everything into a blender and pulse until it’s nicely combined.  Eventually the oil will come back out of the mix, but olive oil by itself with fresh cracked black pepper makes a nice dipping sauce for bread, so not really a problem.  Plus you can always just scoop the oil back in with the other ingredients with the bread.  Messy and easy for a summer lunch with maybe leftover barbecued chicken or steak, and maybe a bunch of green grapes.



Simple, Satisfying Calzones

One of my go-to’s for easy dinner. Dress this up with a green salad and a glass of wine, or with a hot vegetable on a cold night. Or take it leftover and cold for a picnic. Or just any time.

Rick and I like totally different things in the realm of food. So I make two of these calzones. They’re big enough most nights for the easy part of dinner we just have half to two-thirds of the calzone and call it good without bothering with salad or dessert or fruit or much of anything.

The calzones take about 1 ¾ hours to 2 hours at 5000 feet, rising faster in summer, slower in winter. The dough is simple and doesn’t require a ton of kneading and if I could find pre-grated Monterey Jack they’d be easier still. The pepperoni in Rick’s I buy in stick form – somehow freshly cut rounds in whatever size I determine seem to have more kick than the paper-thin sliced bagged pepperoni (which isn’t bad either, in a pinch).

I bake them in pie pans for the simple reason that they leak, oozing chewy, hot, melted cheese throughout the pan which I know from unfortunate experience, can set the oven on fire. I also rarely bother to cut slits in the finished calzones before they go in the oven because by then the dough is a little sticky and generally creates its own gaps.

In the photos I rolled out one round and cut it in half so the finished calzones look a little oddly shaped. It was nice for the photo but the dough spent the time I was preparing the stuffing trying to form itself back together. Separation anxiety. It was hard to separate the two pieces. That said I usually roll it into an oval and form it into a long tube. Fancier and probably just as easy would be to roll the dough into a circle and fold it neatly over the filling, creating a half moon, then use a fork to crimp the edges.

Fancy or not, these are simple and tasty.

Dough for 2 Calzones

1 cup very warm water

2 teaspoons active dry yeast (not rapid rise)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons canola oil (olive oil if you prefer it; I don’t care for it in crusts)

2 ½ to 3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

Dissolve the yeast in the hot water in a medium to large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the salt over top, add the oil, then add 2 cups of the flour. Stir for form a sticky dough. Stir in enough remaining flour that the dough can be scooped out of the bowl onto a floured board.

Knead for a couple minutes. This dough doesn’t need a ton of working. Add as much reserved flour as necessary so the dough just barely still feels sticky, then scrape out the mixing bowl till it’s fairly clean and return the dough to the bowl to rise, covered, until double. Usually I only use a total of 2 ½ cups flour. Dough is somewhere between the size of a large softball and a small cantaloupe.

The dough should take 45 minutes to just over an hour to rise. Preheat the oven to 425 while preparing the filling.


Really anything could be filling. My favorite is a cup of cottage cheese, half a cup of shredded skim milk mozzarella, half a cup Monterey Jack, half a cup of pimento-stuffed green olives, chopped or sliced, and a good hearty sprinkle of oregano. Place in the greased pie pan.

Rick’s is a smear of favorite pizza sauce, half a cup of Monterey Jack, half a cup of mozzarella, a very small grating of sharp cheddar (it can easily overpower everything else) and somewhere between half and one cup of sliced pepperoni. Sprinkle on the oregano and seal it up.


These don’t have to rise. The minute they’re sealed they can go into the oven for 25 minutes at 425. Check at 25 minutes and maybe give them another 2 or 3 minutes. Remove from oven when they’re nicely golden and let cool on a rack for about 5 minutes because they’re now sizzling like fajitas do and the insides are hotter than the sun.

These are kind of a compromise dinner for me when I go into a low carb high protein phase. There’s obviously carbs in the flour, but the insides are as protein packed as can be with the cheese and fat never alarms me like carbs do. Plus the fillings could easily be traded out – salami in one, or pepperoni and pineapple, or ham and green peppers or ham and pineapple, or all cheese (though that seems kind of wanting, somehow). Or even a nicely slow-cooker cooked steak with sautéed yellow onions and a burgundy.

Now I’m dreaming of meat pies. If you come up with a variation on this theme, let me know in the comments – I’d love to try something new.


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