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The Well-Read Cook’s Book: Still more party food

roasted potatoes with parsley pesto
Roasted red potatoes
The Well-Read Cook’s Book was a gift from my friend Sally a few years ago. I forget just when. I am fairly sure it came in a box with other gifts, and that remembering just when it arrived will not give me much idea of which birthday it was meant to honor; Sally and I have a habit of sending gifts at random to go with whatever the past range of missed birthdays, anniversaries and other major holidays may have been. One of the more recent gifts I sent had to cover at least 18 months of neglect.

I am pretty sure I was living in Lake Oswego when the book came. Definitely still in Oregon.

Anyway, The Well-Read Cook’s Book is hard to categorize. It’s a charmingly illustrated book, and in the preface author Jean Gilbert recounts her influences: childhood in Texas, the regional popularity of Mexican food, local specialties enjoyed in her global travels, and the sheer joy of eating and cooking. The book expresses joie de vivre. I had spent time admiring the recipes but just never got around to using it until now. I thought it would be great for a party.

PotatoesNPestoIn the preface Gilbert spends some time extolling the virtues of garlic, so it is fitting that I was drawn to the recipe for roasted potatoes with parsley pesto. I learned to make pesto a little over 10 years ago during the preparations for a friend’s wedding, and have always used fresh basil as the base, so I was curious to see how parsley would do instead. In fact, for a little while I was tempted to substitute basil for parsley, but I decided that would not be in keeping with the spirit of discovering the recipes as they are provided. And it’s a good thing, because the recipe calls for a full head of garlic, and I think the relative bitterness of the parsley is necessary to balance out its power.

Pesto is incredibly easy to make. You throw a bunch of parsley (minus the big stems) into a food processor with a head of garlic (cloves peeled), 1 cup of freshly grated parmesan, a couple of tablespoons of dried basil, half a cup of pine nuts, about half a teaspoon of salt, and a cup and a half of olive oil. At this point I think the guests would have been happy if I had just poured the mixture into a bowl and handed out spoons, but I kept to the instructions and tossed it with about two pounds of small roasted red potatoes. (Gilbert tells you to prepare the roasting pan with half a cup of olive oil, but that would have been too much; I tossed them with less than half that amount and they were still swimming in it, so use your judgment there.) This would be phenomenal if served while still a little warm; it was a huge hit at room temperature, and kept its flavor wonderfully for the few days thereafter that the leftovers lasted.

Verdict: Success. I will make the pesto again soon, this coming week in fact, to pair with pasta (it would also go nicely with chicken, now that I think about it). I may wait to try the potato version until there’s a fresh crop of red roasting potatoes in the Greenmarket, and I feel like turning on the oven again.

One Comment

  1. Sally says:

    Well goodness. I feel all honored to have been in at the start of this great adventure in such a special way. Though I envy all the people who got to do the eating. It sounds wonderful.

    Happy birthday again. Isn’t it just amazing how time runs on the way it does?

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