For the last few years, one of the birthday presents I've received from my parents has been cooking classes at the Culinary Arts School of Ontario. Though these classes are exactly that, one day (well, three hour) classes, the amount that I've learned has been very helpful in my day-to-day cooking exploits. Knowing something as simple as the proper way to chop vegetables has both sped up my food prep time, and reduced (but not completely eliminated - that's another story) the number of nicks and cuts I inflict on myself with my brand-new, very sharp 7" Santoku knife I got for Christmas from my girlfriend. It's very nice. But I digress.
The last class I took was entitled 'Classic and Contemporary Sauces', and oh my god, did I ever end up with some good food at the end of that class. The chef gave us a choice at the beginning of the class; he said,
"You will get to take home a little bit of everything we make today, so we can do this two ways: either you guys can make the sauces yourselves, in which case we'll get about six done, OR you can watch me make sauces and help out, and we'll get about twelve done."
We took Option B.
Yes, I know, it's supposed to be a cooking class where we're the ones doing the cooking, but we all (10 of us) acted as sous-chefs and were more involved than we thought we were going to be. The sauces we ended up with included (but were not limited to) Hollandaise, Alfredo, Chocolate Ganache (oh yes), Three-Pepper Veal Reduction, and Pesto.
Ah, pesto. It's simple, really. All you need is fresh basil, salt, good olive oil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Then blend everything until smooth. How can you go wrong with a list of ingredients like that?
We got right into it, and ended up making a vat of pesto. Seriously, it was a vat. Everyone in the class went home with a huge plastic tub of pesto under their arm, including myself. As far as I'm concerned, pesto goes with everything. At least, I used it with everything. Mmmmmm... pesto...
A few days after the class, I stopped in at the Grocery Palace on my way home from work, and they had some really nice-looking artisanal pizza bread for sale in the bakery section. I immediately thought "Pesto Pizza!", and went about finding the rest of the ingredients that I thought would go well with the pesto sauce.
I settled on the following:
thick layer of Pesto Sauce
Chicken legs, baked and shredded
red onion, roughly chopped
green olives with pimento, sliced
more garlic cloves
mozzerella cheese, shredded
mediterranean cheddar with olives and sundried tomatoes, roughly torn
fresh black pepper
I baked it at 400F for about ten minutes, until the cheese was bubbly and slightly browned. Served with a nice bottle of white wine, that was a great meal.