By heritage, I’m an “Irish Girl” who reluctantly grew up on meat, potatoes, Irish stew, and (gag) turnips. Not my personal idea of a good time. I do like Lucky Charms (that counts, right?!). I so happen to have a great fondness for Italian food!!!

Recently I decided to make good use of the basil from my herb garden.  I’m impressed — this plucky basil is holding its own amongst the mint for my mojitos.  I reside here in the great “Garden State”.  For those of you who don’t know, that’s New Jersey. No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you — I actually typed New Jersey :) I live in Southern New Jersey, which is probably the most underdeveloped in all the state (read – there is a little bit of land left that is not taken by housing, strip malls, etc).  In fact, New Jersey is one of the top producers of blueberries, cranberries, and peaches.  Oh, and Sopranos fans.

But “Fuhgetabout” the agricultural lesson for today, on to more important things… FOOD!  In preparation for dinner, I picked up some of the first “Jersey Tomatoes” at our local farm stand.  I then stopped by the Italian Market for some smoked buffalo mozzarella and roasted red peppers.  Back home, I dusted off my Cuisinart Chopper Thingy (yes, that’s what I call it), and started on the pesto.  This pesto is lighter in taste than your traditional pesto as I used lemon juice.  Not to toot my own horn (toot toot!), but the pesto tasted delicious with the tomatoes, mozzarella, and red peppers.  What an easy summertime meal!

Homemade Pesto

3 packed cups of fresh basil leaves
2 cloves of peeled garlic
1/3 cup of grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons of lightly toasted pine nuts (toast in a small pan over low heat till golden brown in color)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 teaspoon of black pepper
2 tablespoons of water
In a food processor, puree all the ingredients listed above until combined. Taste and make adjustments as needed (I sometimes need to add a bit more basil or cheese).

Tomato, Mozzarella, and Roasted Red Pepper “Salad”

Two to three medium tomatoes sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 8 ounce ball of smoked buffalo mozzarella
1 12 ounce jar of marinated roasted red peppers (these were in olive oil & had garlic cloves — I drained mine)
A few basil leaves for garnish
On a platter, alternate sliced tomatoes and mozzarella.  Where there is space, place your roasted red peppers.  Drizzle a small portion of extra virgin olive oil on top of the tomatoes, mozzarella, and red peppers.  Next, spoon the homemade pesto over all of the ingredients.  Garnish with a few basil leaves and enjoy!