Bootin’ the Gluten: The versitility of pesto

Summer is at its peak and fresh produce is abundant. Fruits that don’t need anything more than a good wash are around every corner.

The vegetables live up to their full potential simply by being sprinkled with a generous pinch of salt and pepper and grilled at your next barbecue.

As the summer bounty offers itself to the markets, I eagerly try to preserve as much as I can for the coming months.

The berries turn into jams, the green beans and radishes become pickled and the herb of the season, basil, transforms into creamy pesto.

Summer always passes in the blink of an eye, carrying with it the sweet fresh basil that I love so much.

Unable to grow enough basil on my own to suffice throughout the colder months, I began making large batches of pesto and freezing them in pre-measured servings for whenever a craving arises.

A quick thaw, and this staple of summer can now be enjoyed year round. Slather pesto on a sandwich, scramble it with eggs, stuff it inside your favorite protein or simply toss with pasta.

The possibilities are endless, making this versatile sauce a long time favorite of mine.

For this month’s recipe, I had a host of inspiration. August is national sandwich month as well as Julia Childs birthday month.

You may have heard of the book “Julia & Julia” (which was later adapted into a movie), chronicling a woman’s journey of cooking through Julia Childs “Mastering The Art of French Cooking,” over the period of a year.

While I have never taken on such a feat, I do cook a recipe from one of her many books every year on Aug. 15, in honor of her birthday.

She always has been a huge inspiration to me and in cooking her recipes, I find myself being carried away and in awe of what all she brought to the culinary world.

While Julia Child certainly did not invent the croque monsieur, a melted ham and cheese sandwich, it appeared in her episode of

“Our Favorite Sandwiches” a recipe which was noted as one of her favorites.

This month I have put my personal touch on the iconic sandwich, including pesto and a ripe summer tomato. It is summer between two slices of bread.

Croque monsieur with pesto and tomato

Yields: 2 Sandwiches


Yields: 1 1/3 cup

2 1/2 cups basil packed

1/2 cup parsley, packed

2 cloves garlic

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup olive oil


1 baguette, I recommend Schar brand*

1/4 cup of homemade pesto, divided

1 medium ripe tomato, cut into 1/2 inch slices

1/4 pound thinly sliced Virginia ham, divided

1/4 pound thinly sliced Gruyere, divided

In a food processor, combine your basil, parsley, garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, pumpkin seeds, and half of the olive oil. Pulse until the mixture begins to come together. While pulsing, slowly drizzle in the remaining cup of olive oil until the mixture is creamy and comes together. Set aside.

For the sandwich, cut your baguette in half, then again down the middle. Spread the pesto evenly over both sides and follow with the sliced tomatoes, ham, and lastly the Gruyere cheese. Once the sandwich is assembled, place in a heated large skillet over low heat and cover. Heat the sandwich until thoroughly warmed and the cheese has melted. Serve and enjoy immediately.