Pesto and sangria, a recipe for the perfect Friday night

This past Friday night, my book club met for the first time. Really, you only need 3 things to make a good book club: good friends, good wine and good food. Oh-and a book. So 4 things.

The good friends part is up to you, but I can help with the food and wine part.

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It took me no time to find the perfect inaugural book club beverage, a frozen sangria slushie from Baking A Moment that had all the hallmarks of my favorite recipes: a handful of basic ingredients that require little to no chopping and get thrown in a blender.

It looks like a smoothie and tastes like a smoothie and most of my guests thought it was a smoothie. Not that any of us mind the taste of wine but I think there’s something special about a drink that disguises an entire bottle of wine as something healthful.

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Safe to say, this cocktail will be making an appearance at all my summer parties, not just the spring ones where it snows the next day. (April, we need to talk.) The only caution here is that I essentially tripled the recipe to use a whole bottle of wine and tried to blend it all in one batch.  My blender was perilously full and I couldn’t get it as slushy as I would have liked because I was afraid of an overflow situation.

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The food however was a bit of a conundrum. I had originally planned on serving a few apps but apps for a group can be tricky. I mean sure you can buy some salsa and hummus and throw down some cheese and crackers and your guests will be full but when they call their mother the next day and she asks what they ate at book club, chances are they won’t remember.

Because store-bought salsa and hummus and cheese and crackers are a tad uninspired and we don’t serve our guests uninspired appetizers do we?  No we do not!

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On the other hand, inspired appetizers involve time, money and 97% of the time, cheese. And that’s fine if you’re a) not me and b) hosting a Saturday cocktail party with a leisurely afternoon free for cooking. It’s not so ideal if you’re running home after work and throwing things together in under an hour.

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And since everyone was coming over at essentially dinner time I thought it best that we all leave properly fed. So I did the only thing one can do when making dinner for a crowd in basically no time: I made pasta with pesto. Well, not just pasta with pesto but two kinds of pasta-gluten free and regular-with two kinds of pesto-dairy free and regular. It’s a well known fact that good friends often come with dietary restrictions

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That plus some sautéed zucchini and squash to mix in and a loaf of Fairway garlic bread and we had all we needed. We ate and we drank and we even discussed the book a bit.

Frozen sangria slushies
(Adapted from Baking a Moment)

1 bottle red wine (I used cabernet sauvignon)
1/2 cup triple sec
6-8 cups frozen fruit (I used mixed berries, pineapple and peaches)

Combine half bottle of wine, 1/4 cup triple sec and 3 cups fruit in blender and purée. If you would like your slushies slushier, add one more cup frozen fruit and blend.

Repeat with remaining ingredients.

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Pesto sauce
(From New York Time’s basic pesto recipe)

Yields: 2 cups of pesto. We had four cups altogether for 6 people and could probably have used an extra cup. Besides, what kind of person minds having leftover pesto?

2 cups basil leaves
2 tablespoons pine nuts
2 large cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast

Combine basil, pine nuts and garlic in food processor (or blender* although food processor is recommended) and process until finely minced.

With the machine running, slowly pour in the olive oil and process until smooth.

Add cheese or substitute and pulse briefly to combine.

Recipes:

Frozen sangria slushie: http://bakingamoment.com/frozen-sangria-slushies/

Pesto: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/2653-basic-pesto

*: Having a blog is making me slightly self conscious about the number of  times I “cook” by throwing things in a blender. I’ve started pondering such existential questions as: “Am I a real cook?” or even, “Who am I?”

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