Fruits of Our Labors: Cookbook Club 101

11 Jan
Image sourced from

Image sourced from

Pesto is much-loved around here — I’ve cooked with it in pasta dishes, as a pizza sauce, and even as an addition to hummus or other dips. And while I’ve enjoyed playing with the basil – Parmesan – pine nut formula by swapping in spinach, kale, cashews, almonds and more, until recently, I had never ventured too far outside of that routine. That is, until I tried Rachael Ray’s Roasted Red Pepper Pesto.

That is, until my DC girlfriends and I created a Cookbook Club.

What’s a Cookbook Club, you ask? The rules are simple:

  1. Get a group of friends together.

  2. Choose a monthly cookbook to highlight.

  3. Pick 1-2 recipes to try on your own.

  4. Whip up those recipes for your club meeting, a potluck at any member’s place.

  5. Eat up!

Each month, I’ll write up a post about our club’s most recent meeting, the book we chose, and the recipes I’ve tried. I’d love for this to become a new feature of GKG! It’s such a fun way to get together and cook with friends, and the time investment can be as involved or as minimal as you like. Watch for an upcoming “Cookbook Club” page in GKG’s title bar. Yummo, indeed!

Image sourced from

Image sourced from

For our first meeting a few months ago, we scoured the pages of Rachael Ray’s My Year in Meals, a 500-recipe-strong collection of dishes that Ray made in the span of one calendar year. The book is chock-full of globally-flavored, seasonal dishes. Some use hard-to-find ingredients, which can make searching for a simple recipe a bit of a headache. However, with a keen eye, I found my Cookbook Club selection: Roasted Red Pepper Pesto. Check it out:

Red pepper pesto? Yes, please!

Red pepper pesto? Yes, please!

This pesto requires a little effort up front, but the roasting process is so simple and the sauce’s flavor so rich, that I think it’s well worth the work. Try the sauce on freshly-cooked rigatoni, slathered onto a flatbread, or even as a dip from crudités or slices of baguette. Happy eating!

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

Adapted from My Year in Meals by Rachael Ray ~*~ Makes approx. 2 cups of sauce

You’ll Need:

  • 3 red peppers
  • 3 Fresno or other medium-hot red chile peppers, seeded [alternately, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes]
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts or sliced almonds, toasted in a pan for 3-5 mins or until fragrant
  • A handful of fresh basil leaves, or 1/2 tsp dry basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, or 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, pressed or finely chopped
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese, plus more if you’re serving with pasta

Here’s What You Do:

  • Roast the red peppers on a lightly oiled cookie sheet under the broiler to their skins. (You may need to turn the peppers 2-3 times to hit all sides.) When skins are blackened, place peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap until completely cool.
Roasted and delicious

Roasted and delicious

  • Then, peel and seed peppers, discarding skins and seeds.
Leftover skins and seeds. Discard these, even though they look pretty cool..

Leftover skins and seeds. Discard these, even though they look pretty cool..

Your freshly-roasted peppers will look something like these beauties.

Your freshly-roasted peppers will look something like these beauties.

  • Place the peppers and chiles (if using; add red pepper flakes at this time if using those, too) in a food processor or blender. Add nuts, herbs, garlic, salt & pepper. Add cheese, then process while streaming in extra virgin olive oil until the sauce is smooth. The consistency will be like an herbal pesto: thick, not soupy.
  • Serve over pasta (I recommend ziti rigate or rigatoni, but spaghetti or linguine would also be delicious) with a few basil leaves on top for a garnish.


Interested in forming your own Cookbook Club? Stay tuned for my Cookbook Club page, or check out this series of posts over at Yum yum for everyone. Here’s to collective food adventures!

2 Responses to “Fruits of Our Labors: Cookbook Club 101”

  1. Felicia January 12, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    I so want to try this out! Any good cookbook recommendations? 🙂

    • galleykitchengal January 12, 2014 at 1:11 pm #

      Hmm…check the page I made with a few ideas! I’d totally start with Gwyneth’s “My Father’s Daughter.” I probably use it once a week! We also did food blogs for a Thanksgiving feast in November; everyone could choose a blog (say, Smitten Kitchen?) and make those recipes. Have fun! 😀

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: