’Tis the season.

For ice cream, of course. Strawberry shortcake. Anything with berries.

And for outdoor grilling.

Sure, hot dogs, burgers, and chicken are givens. But bread – either baked entirely on the grill, or simply warmed over dying coals – is a wonderful addition to any outdoor table.

Whether you butter burger buns and slap ’em face down on the grill, wrap garlic bread in foil and set it on the upper rack while steak sizzles down below, or go all the way – grilled pizza, anyone? – your grill is a wonderful adjunct to your oven. Which, face it, as temperatures climb into the 90s, becomes one of your lesser-used appliances.

So, one way or another, grilled bread should be a significant part of your summertime culinary repertoire. And if you're going to grill bread, you need the dips, spreads, and toppings to go with it.

Enter pesto.  It's traditional with pasta, but pesto is delicious on bread, too – think bruschetta.

And hummus, perfect with pita. Onion dip is great with chips, but our version, made with caramelized onions, marries wonderfully well with all kinds of crusty breads, too – including grissini.

Salsa cruda, just about the simplest thing you can do with sun-warmed, garden-fresh vegetables. It's the ideal dip for tortilla chips. And it's a splendid topping for gorditas.

And last but not least, homemade Greek-style yogurt made into cucumber-garlic-mint tzatziki is a cool, refreshing counterpoint to crunchy focaccia sticks.

First step: fresh herbs. Basil is traditional, but I often use Italian flat-leaf parsley. It makes a vibrant green pesto that doesn't turn brown or fade; and parsley's flavor, while different certainly than basil's, is just as compelling.

Plus, parsley's a whole heckuva lot cheaper to buy than basil, if you don't grow your own herbs and have to go to the market for them.

I've put an entire bunch of parsley in the food processor, minus the coarse bottom stems, which I've chopped off. I don't bother laboriously picking off the leaves, one by one - I'm not that crazy!

To make basil pesto, use 4 to 5 cups fresh basil leaves, firmly packed (about one large bunch, 6 ounces before trimming).

Pile the following on top of the herbs:

1 cup (4 ounces) coarsely grated or chunked Parmesan cheese
4 to 8 large, peeled garlic cloves (to taste)
1 cup (8 ounces) walnuts or pine nuts (use pine nuts only if you're independently wealthy)
1/4 teaspoon salt

Process till everything is coarsely chopped.

Start drizzling in about 5 tablespoons (about 2 1/8 ounces) olive oil, as the machine's running. Stop midway...

...to scrape down the sides of the work bowl.

Continue drizzling in the oil, adding more for a thinner pesto, less for a thicker version.

When it's as thick and smooth as you like, stop the processor, and pile the pesto into a bowl.

Pesto is a wonderful complement to pasta; but it's also a great dip or spread.

Store pesto in the refrigerator, its surface covered with plastic wrap, if you plan to eat it soon. Or freeze it; even when frozen, it'll be soft enough that you can dig out chunks of it to warm up for sauce. Yield: about 20 ounces, a scant 2 1/2 cups.

Read, rate, and review (please!) our recipe for Pesto.

Filed Under: Recipes
PJ Hamel
The Author

About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

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