Chef Heather HunsakerSpecial to the Bonanza

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May 18, 2012
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Foodie news: Discover the power of pesto

TAHOE/TRUCKEE — As rich as it is in taste, pesto sauce has a rich and flavorful history. Pesto originated hundreds of years ago in Genoa in the Liguria region of northern Italy, where basil grows wild in the Italian hills. The word pesto means “pounded,” referring to the traditional method of making pesto by grinding or pounding the ingredients using a marble mortar with a wooden pestle. Today, pesto can easily be made with a variety of ingredients in a food processor or blender.While pesto is classically made with basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; preparing homemade pesto is really quite effortless and can be easily adapted. There are many fresh ingredients that can be substituted to make a pesto to fit your budget, meet your dietary restrictions or use ingredients you already have on hand. Below are some suggestions on what to use as a substitute for classic pesto ingredients:Basil: Any leafy green can be substituted for the basil in pesto; try arugula, mint, cilantro, spinach, parsley, kale, or even broccoli.Pine nuts: Since pine nuts can be expensive and sometimes hard to find, any nut will work as a substitute. Pecans, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and cashews work well, or for a nut-free option use sunflower or pumpkin seeds.Parmigiano-Reggiano: While the parmesan cheese adds to the unique flavor of pesto, you can leave it out or use a substitute, such as 1-2 tablespoons yeast or almond meal, for a vegan or lactose free sauce. Today’s recipe creates a scrumptious pesto using arugula and pecans to transform plain tilapia into a pleasing dinner!Baked Tilapia with Arugula and Pecan PestoPrep Time: 15 minutesCook Time: 20 minutesServes: 43 cups arugula leaves, rinsed and dried2 cloves garlic, minced1⁄2 cup chopped pecans1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil1⁄4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese1⁄4 teaspoon ground black pepper and salt, to taste4 (8.0 ounce) fillets tilapiaPreheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.Combine 3 cups arugula, garlic, pecans, olive oil, 1⁄4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, black pepper and salt in a blender and blend until it reaches the consistency of a pesto sauce.Place the tilapia fillets in prepared pan. Spread the pesto generously on top of fillets. Sprinkle each fillet with 1⁄2 tablespoon of remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.Bake in preheated oven until fish flakes easily, about 20 minutes.— Chef Heather Hunsaker attended and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, but hasbeen developing family friendly meals since she was 9-years-old in her mother’s kitchen. She is an avid crockpotter and knows how to get food on the table in a pinch.-She currently serves as-a writer and recipe developer for meal planning

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated May 18, 2012 12:45PM Published May 18, 2012 12:44PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.