Friday, August 6, 2010
Harvest that basil--pesto
The last few years I've planted basil and I've always been disappointed...because I underestimate how much I'm going to want! You don't need a lot of ingredients to make food taste good when you have fresh herbs like basil on hand. And Lincoln will eat anything if it has fresh basil from the garden on it. In fact, I tell him some things are basil just because they're green to get him to eat them. I know, I know. You gotta do what you gotta do.
That said, all good things must come to an end. With dry August heat and the leaves getting bigger (and therefore starting to tend toward bitterness), and some plants going to seed, I decided it was pesto-making season. So here's my recipe for making pesto. If you don't have 8 cups of basil leaves on hand, you can easily modify this to what you do have around. If you don't have pine nuts (also called pignoli on some labels), you can use walnuts, although I'd play with the ratios since walnuts to me can have a stronger flavor. You can also leave out nuts altogether. Toasting the pignoli ahead for just a minute or two until brown wakens their flavor and texture. Fresh lemons are best.
Take care to wash your basil well since none of this is cooked and you'll be eating it basically raw. I found some interesting critters curled up inside my leaves. There are better ways to get your protein! Unless, of course, you're trying out for that survivor guy show.
Recipes for what to do with your pesto will follow.
8 cups fresh basil (lightly packed into the cup)
2/3 cup fresh grated parmesan
1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
3 garlic cloves
juice of two lemons
1 Tb of sea salt
approximately 8 Tb of olive oil
1.) Harvest the largest stalks of basil, leaving any smaller stalks for tomato salad for the rest of the summer. :-)
2.) Thoroughly rinse each stalk and leaf with cold water, removing damaged leaves and garden pests.
3.) Remove the leaves, discarding any of the woody stalks in a grocery bag with the damaged leaves and pests (I seal these up at the end and toss them in the outside trash so no little nature visitors surprise me in my kitchen later).
4.) Thoroughly dry by rolling in a clean kitchen towel, pinching together the ends and shaking out excess water. Use a second dry towel, repeating the process if needed.
5.) Meanwhile, lightly toast your pine nuts. You can also omit them or use walnuts. Juice your lemons and measure out your olive oil and cheese. Peel your garlic.
6.) Begin to pack as much of the basil into your food processor as you can, using the chopping blade. Pulse until you break down some of the leaves and can fit in all 8 cups of the basil. You can start adding the lemon juice and olive oil to help the process.
8.) Toss in all remaining ingredients and pulse until a smooth consistency. If it's too dry, add a LITTLE more oil, 1 tsp at a time. You can't go back once you add too much oil and in my mind there's nothing worse than oily pesto.
9.) To freeze, spoon the pesto into ice cube trays (each slot is about 1 Tablespoon of pesto). Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap down into the pesto to keep it from discoloration or freezer burn.
10.) When frozen, turn out into a freezer bag, label and store away to use later. Makes about 18 Tbs.
Sorry, could not get this durn picture to rotate in photo imager. Probably a user error. :-)