Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!

"...besides love, independence of thought is the greatest gift an adult can give a child." - Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Abracadabra, Hey- Pesto!!

Yes, pesto. Mmm, pesto.

In late Spring, I planted a couple of basil seedlings, hoping that I could enjoy some fresh basil and tomatoes this Summer.

The tomatoes are resisting, although they have had to weather blossom-end rot, Giant Green Critters of Doom, and the Georgia heat.

The basil thrived, happily giving a few of its leaves to the local wildlife for a snack while growing as high as my knee. Thursday, as I was in the midst of preparing deviled eggs and Rice Krispies treats, I decided that it was time to make pesto. Mmm, pesto.

It's recipe time!!
The players:
A bunch of fresh basil - about two-and-a-half cups gently packed
A small handful of pine nuts. You can use walnuts, too, I'm tols, but I like pine nuts
About a half a cup of grated parmesan, romano, or some combination of the two
Three cloves of garlic, peeled
Olive oil

A cutting board
An Ulu or Mezzaluna style knife

On with the show!
First, place about a third of the basil and all of the garlic on the board. Yes, I used four cloves - I love me some garlic! Rough chop them.

Add another third of the basil, keep chopping. Add the final third, and chop, chop, chop.

I realize that this would go faster in a food processor, but A) I don't have one, and B) I like the coarser texture of the hand chopped pesto.

Add half the pine nuts. You know the drill. Add the other half. Chop-chop!

See? Chopped up fine, but not a paste. Don't worry, we're almost there.

Using the Ulu, a spatula, or your hands, mix in the grated cheese. Freshly grated is preferred, but this time I used ready-grated. I used parmesan, because romano is a little more strong in flavour and can overpower the spicy basil and the pungent garlic.

Salt and pepper to taste. You can get away without salt in this if you use salt in you pasta water, but since I use pesto on sandwiches, in past, in salads, and on crackers, I salted.

Gently squeeze it into a ball. When it looks like this (What is going on with my hand?? It doesn't look that pudgy in person, I swear!!):

It's ready for a container. "But wait" you cry, "You forgot the oil!!" No I didn't. Patience, friend. Really, if you've read this blog for any length of time, haven't you noticed that I often don't do things the normal way??

Press the almost-pesto into a container.
I have much love for Ziploc Twist-n-Serve containers. Much, much love.

Drizzle in just enough olive oil to cover the top. A note - basil browns when exposed to air, so covering it with a touch of oil not only adds flavour, it preserves. You won't need much.

Now for the hardest part - yes, harder than chopping all that by hand. Cover and refrigerate for a day. I see you sneaking a taste! As yummy as it is, let it rest. It's been traumatized - chopped, mixed, oiled, contained, what a day. Let it relax and get used to its new identity. You'll be glad you did.
You can freeze this if you want, but the preparation changes a bit. First, leave out the cheese. Second, drizzle the oil over it and mix. Line an ice cube tray with plastic, press the pesto into the tray, and freeze. Once frozen, pop the cubes into a plastic bag. Thaw and mix in cheese a day before you want to use it.
One last upside to doing this by hand: your hands will smell good enough to eat.
Bonus: Things to do with pesto besides pasta.
Spread onto whole grain bread, top with blanched spinach leaves and chicken salad, enjoy.
Cook radiatore, ziti, bowties, shells, or the shaped pasta of your choice - only remember that the more little nooks and crannies the pasta has, the more the dressing will stick. Drain over frozen peas. Toss pasta and peas with pesto. Add in anything you like - cooked, flaked salmon (fresh, not tinned!), chicken chunks, spinach, red peppers, green onions, whatever you think pasta salad needs. Add just enough mayo to blend it all together.
Spread pesto on crackers. Top with tomato slices, pepperoni, mozzarella, or just eat it plain. Mmm, pesto.
Spread onto pizza dough, top with mozzarella and tomatoes, bake until gooey, golden, and slap-your-mama good.
Cut tomatoes into wedges. Toss with balsamic vinegar and pesto. Eat as is, or pile onto a bed f baby spinach or lettuce.
The possibilities are limited only by imagination.


foolery said...

Mmmmm, this sounds good. I haven't had breakfast yet and STILL it sounds good.

Kyddryn said...

That reminds me - pesto goes beautifully in eggs!

kerri said...

yum yum......you should come visit me at the artist market tomorrow with pesto and a bagett....bring your cards...lol