Monday, July 7, 2008

Mmmmmm pesto!

Did I mention I love basil? And pesto. And things made with basil.

But fresh herbs are very expensive so instead of buying it, I grew lots of basil this year, lots and lots of basil!

My friend Kerry is the first one to introduce me to the joys of pesto and I still use her recipe. It's simple to make and well worth the effort. And it freezes well if you freeze it before adding the cheese. I'm not sure there is such a thing as too much pesto but perhaps this year I'll find out because even though I processed 30 cups of basil leaves, I've still got more out in the garden.

Kerry's Pesto

2 c packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 c olive oil
2 tbsp pine nuts (or walnuts)
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 c freshly grated parmesan
2 tbsp freshly grated romano
3 T softened butter
Linguine or other cooked pasta

Mix basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, and salt in the blender or food processor unless you're a purist and decide to use a mortar and pestle. Mix the basil mixture with the cheese. Mix the butter into the cooked pasta, toss in the basil mixture and toss together.

Now, I always change things up a bit. I find that that is more salt than I like so I add about 3/4 as much as the recipe calls for and I also use just enough olive oil to get the texture I like which is usually a bit less than this. Don't add extra garlic while in theory there is no such thing as too much garlic, in reality there certainly is such a thing as too much garlic. I also don't find it absolutely essential to have both parmesan and romano so I usually just use parmesan since I keep that in my refrigerator at all times.

I started with this little mountain of basil.

Can't you smell it from there? My neighbor told me that he once bought an entire bushel of basil at the farmers market and that night, their smoke detectors went off. They couldn't find smoke or fire but called the fire department anyway and the fire department couldn't find anything either. Their theory is that the very aromatic basil set off their smoke detector. Feel free to try that at home and report back. I can report that my little basil mountain didn't set off the smoke alarm.

One of the most important steps is washing the basil since a gritty pesto is a nasty experience. I'm a fan of double washing myself.

Now pick all the leaves off the stems. It'll take what feels like forever but it's much faster than cleaning cilantro. But all that water? It's got to go or it messes up the pesto. I like a salad spinner for that and I double spin it stopping in between to adjust the leaves so more water will spin off.
Is that enough? Not for me. I also dump it out onto clean dishcloths so it can air dry for a bit before I process it. This is the point where I sliced a tomato, put a bit of the cheese we got in the share on each slice and topped it with a basil leave. What an excellent lunch!
Next I mix it all in the food processor. It comes together very quickly but taste it and make sure it's all to your liking. If it's not, add a bit more of what it's missing or a bit more basil if it seems out of whack.

The last step? Freeze it! I froze some of it in ice cube trays (I had two full trays of pesto) and some in packages that would easily feed four people.
What will I do with it? I find that two cubes of pesto make an excellent sauce for a homemade pizza. Top the pizza with cheese but don't bother with anything else since you won't be able to taste it.

I also put it in soups and salads, anything that needs a lovely little kick.

I also did a little experiment to see if I could preserve some basil without making it into pesto so I'd have just the lovely basil flavor. I mixed it in the food process with water and froze that in an ice cube tray but I have yet to use any of this mix so I'm not sure how well it will work.

1 comment:

Skeeter said...

I love this site and the explanations and pics you post. I now have acquired an immersion blender and a salad spinner - the spinner is absolutely perfect for reviving things toward the end of the share week.