Saturday, July 19, 2008

Pesto

This past spring, Ellwood Thompson's was giving out these little seedling kits for herbs. It was just a 1 1/2" pot, some seeds, and this pellet that swelled up and turned into soil when you added water. From that teensy kit came about 8 nice bushy basil plants! I eventually transplanted them to my front yard and they have thrived!

The basil was getting all tall and leggy, so I really hacked it back and decided it was time for a big batch of fresh pesto. I had the last bit of the gorgeous expensive Frantoia olive oil that Andy bought on Amazon.com when he had insomnia. We also rode our bikes to Nick's Produce and bought some pine nuts and some lovely cheese. Mani Mouris, the owner, makes this special blend of grated cheese. I'm not sure what's in it. I just ask for the special blend. It gives me a false sense of being in the know.



The smell of a big colander of basil is intoxicating! I spend a long time picking the leaves off, and discarding the flowery parts--they're a little bitter. Then really give it a good wash, like 3 times over.

I dry roast the pine nuts in a pan to get a little toasty flavor, then take them out and cool them before I add them to the rest of the stuff. You can use other kinds of nuts, too. I have made pesto with almonds and I made a really great pesto one time with pecans.




I use a food processor to make my pesto, but if you've not yet been dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century and you don't have a food processor, a blender will work, too. Even a mortar and pestle will do the trick.

I cram the basil leaves in first, pulse a few times to reduce their bulk, then add the other ingredients.



I don't measure anything, I just go by look, consistency and taste. I used a generous amount of garlic in this batch--about 6 cloves. You don't need to chop it up much. Then I used about a cup and a half of the cheese, then about 3/4 cup of pine nuts. I add the olive oil as I am processing, and I stop adding oil when the pesto is thinner than a "paste" but thicker than a "sauce." I like to call it gloppy. Lastly, I process in the juice of half a lemon. This adds a barely discernable tart note and helps keep the pesto from oxidizing.

I think the flavor of fresh made pesto bears absolutely no resemblance to that salty crap you find in jars at the grocery store. Plus, when you make fresh pesto with such lovely ingredients, you must do it justice and eat it at the optimal time, which is right after you make it. I will use leftover pesto as an ingredient--like in soup or on pizza--but with pasta where it's the star of the show it has to be lip-smackin' fresh.



Now, if I were a really perfect girlfriend, I would have made fresh pasta today. But perfection is so boring, and trust me, it's difficult to maintain. So I just used some penne rigate we had in the cupboard.

Talk about a taste explosion! I was going around imitating Gordon Bass, exclaiming, "MUTHER. OF. GAWWD." We made lots of moaning sounds when we were eating it. If anybody had come to the door, they'd have thought we were having an afternoon shag!

15 comments:

Joy W. said...

I'm a pesto nut!! Can't wait to try this!!!!
Yum!
Don't know if you got my other message...I made a slipcover for my sofa today! Just finished. All that's left to do are the zippers on the seat cushions.
I couldn't be prouder if I'd parted the red sea!!

pnlkotula said...

MMMmmmmm, I love pesto, and I've never made it fresh. That looks good!

Janine Serresseque said...

Wow! You made a slipcover?? I didn't know you could sew. You are full of surprises. I have made slicovers a few times and found them difficult. Good for you, Joystick!

debra said...

oh god, I would beg if wanted me to, for some of that pesto on a big plate of pasta when my tired ass gets back to Richmond!

yum! ;-)

Amy Sullivan said...

Yummy, yummy! That looks delicious!
I love pesto. Try tossing it with fresh veggie's, like zucchini, squash, onions, mushrooms, what ever. And roasting it all together in a high temperature oven.You will love it!Oh, & drizzle a bit more olive oil over before popping it into the oven.Amy

Joy W. said...

Oh Goodness,
I'm definitely trying them with veggies! Great suggestion Amy!

JB said...

this looks amazing!!

Jacquie said...

Hey Neen. One of the first things you ever made for me was this pesto! So damn good!

I have a question for you...how many leaves do you pick to make this batch of Pesto? I also grew some this year and have been staring at them ever since. So making a batch (or two) would be a good idea!

Joy W. said...

Don't laugh at me....
Ijust tried to make the pesto. I don't know how to put my food processor together, and don't have a blender, so i tried to make it in my smoothie machine. Not a fruitful solution.
Maybe Eric will know how to put the food processor together!

pnlkotula said...

I didn't laugh, but I kind of snorted...a little. Something we would do at our house. But you're a lot better cook than we are, Joy. I bet that was a fun adventure.

Janine Serresseque said...

Jake, the batch I blogged about was a big one. I filled a big colander with the pickings. You can scale it up or down. I would guess that particular batch had about 4 cups of leaves, after I had cleaned and picked it all. I have made much smaller batches. It's really not an exact science at all. If you like more cheese, put more cheese. If you don't like nuts, leave them out, etc. It's hard to screw it up!

Joystick, my long ago boyfriend (1980's, shoulder pads, you get the picture) who introduced me to pesto made the whole thing with a big crescent shaped knife with 2 handles, and it turned out lovely. It was this rock back and forth kind of knife. So whatever works. And honestly, my Cuisinart is really old and I often get confused putting it together. I understand, my dear.

Anonymous said...

I finally figured out how to put the machine together and Joy put the stuff in there and presto – Pesto. Man, it was really good. Now Janine, you know I am not a man of gourmet tastes (I like fake, prepackaged cheese) but this was delish. p.s. I love it when my work spouse and real spouse do things. Eric

Gordon said...

I have made pesto with mint when my basil petered out. It was AMAZING. Try it sometime....

Bruce Miller said...

I just read all this and had to write in. Terrie is on me like a big dog to go basil shopping. Having enjoyed Jo-neen's pesto in days gone by, I'm up for the challenge. I even got a little excited reading how much Eric liked watching his work wife and his home wife work together. Pesto can do that to a guy.

Janine Serresseque said...

Well, congratulations on a successful pesto, Boss! Thanks for reading, and thanks for the feedback!