If you’ve never grown fresh basil, YOU MUST! If you’ve never taken a bunch of basil & made Pesto, YOU MUST!! That’s right you MUST!! Now, I’m hesitant to get on my pesto “soap box” to wax poetic about pesto but I can’t think of anything that rhymes with Pesto. (Masa? Ideas?) But I will say that if there's any way to preserve a piece of summer & pull it out on one of those freezing, gloomy winter days, this could be your answer. (Well, if you’ve got the means, I suppose flying to Hawaii could also be the answer, but anyway)
Oh………….well, alright if you insist. (grabs wooden crate & climbs on top) Basically, pesto has just got to be the simplest way to use basil & to keep the fresh taste of basil when you don't have it growing fresh. Pesto is basically idiot proof, which is really great for me. All you have to do is grab a bunch of basil, some garlic, olive oil & a few pine nuts & blend it. How hard is that? Oooh, it’s so good, even just a tiny tsp. full will add some great flavor to pretty much any dish you put it in. Plus it’s GREEN. I mean, who doesn’t like green? And the list of things you can put it on are endless, off the top of my head:
- As a base for cream pastas
- Or cold pastas
- On focaccia
- Or as a base for cheese toasts
- In dressings (ask Chala about this great ‘cheat’)
- In a sandwich (spread it on the bread)
- In a tomato/cucumber tossed salad
- In a sauce for fish (sour cream based)
- With chicken (try Parmesan chicken with pesto in the butter, it’ll give your guests quite the scare, so beware)
- With tofu….(yeah you heard me, shhh, don’t give me no lip!) If you use momen dofu, it makes the tofu taste like a sort of cheese. My kids Loooove it!
Well, you know summer is officially over when you bring in a big harvest of basil for pesto & freeze it instead of canning it and this is what I did today.
So here's the dealo:
Mind you, I usually make pesto with no recipe, there are various suggestions for levels of olive oil or garlic. Generally most traditional recipes include pine nuts or other nuts to make it more like a creamy spread than an blended oil. Now they are pretty pricey here in Jap-Jap, but I don't suggest substituting with walnuts cuz' they have a pretty bitter skin, the good news is that Parmesan cheese also makes it pretty creamy. Anyway, here’s the basic scoop:
4 cups of packed freshly picked basil (best to pick it first thing in the morning or evening, for better release of the oils)
1 ½ c extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves peeled
½ tsp salt
1/3 c pine nuts
1/3 c Parmesan cheese
Wash the basil & drain of water (use a salad spinner if you have one, Kari J )
Put basil, garlic, salt, pine nuts & Parmesan cheese in blender with about ½ c of olive oil.Blend pulsing, and push the basil down occasionally with a long spoon or cooking chopsticks. But PLEASE make sure the blender is off or you will have a nasty surprise involving broken metal ware & lots of green oily business on your clothing & face.
When the basil is basically chopped small, add the rest of the oil in a small stream till it’s well blended. You can add more olive oil accordingly. Some people like the pesto kinda chunky but I like it SMMOOOOTH!! Mmm-hmm! So blend away, baby! Lookie there! That's some handsome green goop. That made about 2 cups or so.
Now you can store it in a jar for months, though the top layer will always discolor with exposure to the air. So seal tightly & don’t be surprised if it turns brownish-black on the top.
If you want to freeze it you can either put it into an ice tray. (though good luck cleaning the tray when you’re done) I freeze it in a large Tupperware & then chop it & put it into zip lock bags. Then when you want to use it just pop it into a bowl to defrost or microwave for a couple of secs.
Now who could ask for anything more?