Saturday, July 2, 2011

Two Basil Pesto

Pesto is a relatively new addition to my life.  I didn't start eating it until about a year ago.  Oh, I had had it once or twice before in a pasta salad or with tortellini, but didn't develop a love for it.  That is, until I made my own pesto with basil I grew myself. 

Faced with an abundance of Italian basil from the couple of potted plants I was growing on my deck I decided to make batches of pesto for the freezer.  That was the beginning of my love affair with pesto.  I now regard it as a staple in my freezer.

Why is that?  Well, if you have pesto on hand you can turn any ho-hum dinner into yummy deliciousness just by adding the pesto.  Do you have some salmon or boneless chicken breasts?  Add the pesto, some diced tomatoes and some fresh mozzarella cheese and happy you will be.  Do you need a quick appetizer?  Stop at the store and buy some fresh artisan bread.  Slice it, brush it with some olive oil and toast it in the oven.  Serve the warm toasts with your basil pesto.  Oh, the 
Ready to Eat!
yumminess.  With a little extra time you can make your own foccacia bread and serve that warm with the pesto on the side.  During the winter months, when fresh basil may be hard to come by, a frozen cube or two of pesto will add deliciousness to a sauce or soup. 

This year I have planted a couple more Italian basil plants in my garden in addition to the pots on my deck.  I also planted four Thai basil plants that are growing quite well.

Thai Basil
Thai basil is new to me and I will be sharing the recipes I make to showcase that herb as the summer progresses. 

My first Thai basil dish, Thai Basil Green Curry with Chicken, Snap Peas and Spinach was a big hit.  I'm looking forward to making it again soon. 

With all these basil plants growing so well in my garden I started making pesto this week.  I used both the Italian basil and the Thai basil together in this pesto, Two Basil Pesto.

Pesto Ingredients
Two Basil Pesto
  • 5 1/2 ounces of fresh basil, about 6 cups packed
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Pick the leaves off your basil, wash and spin it dry.  Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat.  Watch them carefully because you want them to be lightly browned, not burned.  Remove them from the heat when you start to smell their nutty aroma.

Toast the Pine Nuts

Mince the two cloves of garlic.  Then sprinkle the 1/2 teaspoon of salt over the garlic.  Using the side of your knife, mash the salt into the garlic, making a paste.

Make a Garlic Paste

Place the basil, pine nuts, garlic and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in the bowl of your food processor or blender.  Process until it forms a paste.  Drizzle the remaining olive oil into the paste while the machine is running.  Stop the machine, add the cheese and process to blend together.  Taste and add fresh ground black pepper as needed.

Freeze Pesto in Cubes

To freeze your pesto, fill the individual sections of an ice cube tray with pesto.  Place in your freezer until frozen.  Remove the cubes from the tray and package in zip closure freezer bags for longer term storage.

Some things to remember when making your pesto:
  • Quantities are approximate.  Use this recipe as a guide.  A little more or less of anything just makes the resulting pesto more yours.  No two batches of my pesto are ever the same.
  • While pest is traditionally made with basil you can experiment with other herbs as well.
  • You don't have pine nuts?  Substitute walnuts.
  • You can substitute Pecorino Romano cheese in place of or along with Parmesan cheese.  Use what you have.
Are you ready to make pesto?  Click the link for the printable Two Basil Pesto recipe.


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