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Few culinary creations are more conducive to mix-and-match than pesto. Pick a leafy green you wouldn't mind eating raw—spinach, basil, kale, beet greens—and pick a hard cheese that you could eat, grated, by the mouthful—I'm partial to Parmesan, Pecorino, or Manchego. Throw them into a blender with a handful of toasted nuts, stream in some splurge-worthy olive oil, and you've just reinvented the pesto wheel.
Cold pesto pasta is one of my favorite summer meals. There are few sights more welcoming after a day in the sun than a tangle of cold noodles slicked with pesto, waiting to be eaten straight from the container. This take on pesto calls for arugula, Parmesan, walnuts, and, stick with me, jalapeño. Peppery lettuces meet spicy pepper in a match I will certainly repeat. To add some sweetness and crunch, I twirled the noodles with raw julienned slices of zucchini. Sweet summer squash needs no further preparation.
About the Author: Suzanne Lehrer is a writer and recipe developer in New York and a recipe editor for Cooking Channel. When not curating her budding hot sauce collection, she puts her French Culinary Institute education to good use in kitchens all around town. Follow her recipes and cooking adventures at TheSuzChef.com and on twitter @the_suzchef.