Friday, August 19, 2011

Summer delights: Basil and homemade pesto.

Presto! Summer is finally here in the damp Pacific Northwest and that means basil and that means pesto. Just the smell of my fresh basil plant makes me hungry. I loved pesto for years and when I discovered how easy it is to make, I’ve been making my own pesto ever since.

Ok, you do have to ‘sacrifice’ your plants. There is a part of me that hears a chorus of ‘plant killer’ when I start cutting down these beauties, but that’s what gardening is all about, isn’t it?

After cutting down the basil plants, I strip the leaves off and set them in a sink of cold water to wash and refresh them. I towel them dry or you could use a salad spinner, you want to make sure the leaves are not wet. Here’s my recipe.

2 cups of cleaned, fresh basil leaves
4 cloves garlic
½ cup walnuts
½ to ¾ cup olive oil
½ cup parmesan or Romano cheese
Put the garlic, walnuts and parmesan cheese in a food processor and whirl till very finely chopped. Add the fresh basil leaves and with the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil in from the top. When the leaves and oil are all blended in and you have a nice basil emulsion, you’re done!

I like to use walnuts instead of pine nuts because I like the flavor. It’s your choice. Once made, you can use the pesto immediately in many ways. Spread it on fresh baguette slices, baked or broiled chicken or fish. Make a salad dressing by adding a little more oil or mayonnaise. Use it to make pesto potato salad or this pasta salad.

If you’re not going to use it all in a week or two, you can freeze it in ice cube trays. Once it’s frozen pop the cubes out and store them in a freezer bag or container. I love knowing I can go to my freezer in the dead of winter and find a little taste of summer to add to pasta, potatoes or over cream cheese as an appetizer spread. Yum.

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