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Check out John's tips to make a great pesto!

chefs at home


John Ash is an internationally recognized culinary figure. He's a spokesman for Fetzer Vineyards, a columnist, cookbook author, and a food and wine educator. He tells FoodFit Executive Chef Bonnie Moore his tips for making great stock fast and getting the most from veggies.

BONNIE:   What do you keep in your pantry?
JOHN ASH:   Pesto and chutneys, hummus, roasted pepper spreads, that kind of stuff. You can make rice and roast or grill some vegetables, and it's perfect, fresh and couldn't be simpler.
BONNIE:   Any other must-haves?
JOHN ASH:   Everybody should have at least four vinegars in their pantry — rice vinegar, a good balsamic vinegar, a good wine vinegar, red or white or both, and a sherry vinegar. If you've been jilted and you're depressed just quickly wilt some spinach and a little bit of sherry vinegar and some salt and pepper, it's so great.
BONNIE:   How about appliances?
JOHN ASH:great tip   I use a juicer for everything, both to make juices to drink and it's my fast way of making vegetable stocks. Get a juicer. Put in fresh fennel, fresh carrots, and a little bit of ginger. You can make a beautiful stock that you can just warm and throw anything into.
BONNIE:   Do you have any restaurant tips for the home cook?
JOHN ASH:   Certainly the whole concept of getting everything out so that you can see it and know that you have it. There's nothing worse than starting on a recipe and discovering, 'oh, an essential flavor here is ginger and I forgot to buy it.'
BONNIE:   Any other helpful hints?
JOHN ASH:   The fact that you can prep some stuff a bit ahead and they don't suffer. It's okay to spend time cutting and chopping, it's actually a Zen experience. We're sort of anti-prepping. Everybody wants it all done for them. They want to buy the vegetables already cut up. In restaurants there's a kind of joy in the getting-it-all-ready stage. It's not drudgery.
BONNIE:   What kinds of things can you have made ahead?
JOHN ASH:   I make pestos of all kinds during whatever time of year. You pull them out of the freezer and put a little glob on your rice and it is absolutely delicious and certainly not a leftover at all.
BONNIE:   That's a great idea. What else is in your freezer?
JOHN ASH:   During the season when peppers are cheap, I roast, char and peel them. They keep wonderfully by laying them out flat, putting a piece of wax paper or something in between and wrapping them up in foil. Then if you want roasted pepper for a soup or stew or a salad or to throw in the last minute into rice, they're there.
BONNIE:   Any secrets for cooking vegetables?

Oven-drying, almost anything. The crummy tomatoes that we get in the winter — slowly oven-drying them concentrates the flavor, makes them sweet. It takes 4 or 5 hours, do it on a Saturday. Keep them in the refrigerator for a month. Throw them into pasta or salads. Oven-dried mushrooms are the best to flavor things.


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John Ash's favorite pesto is not a traditional pesto with basil, but a cilantro-based one, and instead of using pine nuts or walnuts, he uses pepitas (dried pumpkin seeds). His advice on making pesto: "The trick there is to blanch whatever herb you're using and whatever green," he says. "Put them in, shock them, cool them off, squeeze them dry, then grind them up. They stay bright green and are really lovely."

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