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A True Taste of Italy: Mint-Almond Pesto

Burlington Free Press

Julia Roberts’ latest, “Eat Pray Love,” arrives in theaters today, which means people the world over will be re-discovering their love for authentic Italian food. I, for one, have never lost my love for Italian cuisine, and thanks to my parents I know I never will.

It all started several years ago, when my mom asked me for a simple dish with authentic Italian flavors that she could share with her St. Francis of Assisi church group. I put together a recipe for a very easy mint-almond pesto, and it was an instant hit. She used it in her tomato, mozzarella and black olive salad, and she still makes it every week for the group, which studies the life and teachings of St. Francis. Three years ago, the group went on a pilgrimage to the actual Italian town of Assisi, and my parents took the opportunity to renew their vows on the trip, which coincided with their 53rd anniversary.

So, as it turns out, this mint-almond pesto recipe is a little bit ‘eat’, a little bit ‘pray’, and a lot ‘love’, and it makes it that much more special. I can’t eat it without thinking of my loving parents.

The recipe is about as Italian as you can get, and it really is remarkably simple. You can use it on everything from, yes, a mozzarella, tomato and black olive salad, to a plate of fresh pasta, and even as a lovely topping for a grilled rack of lamb.

Buon appetito and enjoy!

Tom Brooks is director of Food and Beverage at The Essex, Vermont’s Culinary Resort and Spa.

Recipe: Mint-Almond Pesto

2 big bunches of mint
3 cloves of garlic
one-fourth cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup toasted almonds
1-2 lemons to taste
one-half cup extra virgin olive oil

Wash the mint very well and cut off the ends of the woody mint stems. Put the mint, garlic, parmesan and almonds into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Squeeze in the juice of the lemons to taste and add the olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. It’s just that simple.

This can be frozen, if you want to make some ahead of time — just omit the parmesan cheese until you’re ready to eat the pesto.