Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mints at the Ready, It's Pesto Time

Today, I figured I'd do a total flip from the figure-friendly mango muffin post to this fat-laden, diet-killer pesto recipe.  It's a great way to use that thriving basil in the garden.  When you make pesto, you need a ton of basil and this recipe requires four to five cups. 

To me, pesto feels like an indulgence.  Maybe that's due to its velvety richness.  Perhaps it's knowing the calorie count in a tablespoon.  Whatever the reason, the ingredients - certainly not budget busters - are basic:  basil leaves, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, Parmesan cheese and, typically, pine nuts.

I like everything about pesto, except the wicked garlic breath that lingers throughout the next day (or days).  Hubmeister and I both appreciate garlic, which could be the secret for a happy marriage. Anyway, don't plan to eat this the night before your dentist appointment, an up-close-and-personal meeting, plane travel, or close encounters with plants that you don't want to see wilt.  It may, however, chase away vampires.

That said, it's a breeze to prepare, especially if you have a food processor; it freezes easily; a little goes a long way; and it's versatile.  You can liven up sauces, smear it on pizza, add some umph to hors d'oeuvres such as bruschetta, spread it on sandwiches, or simply toss it with hot pasta.

I have modified Ina Garten's recipe, using less olive oil than she requires.  I couldn't bring myself to use all of the 1 1/2 cups of oil she suggests in her Back to Basics cookbook, but I copied her blend of walnuts and pine nuts.  I combined her recommendations with those from Southern Living, and this is the resulting recipe:

Homemade Pesto
1/4 C walnuts, toasted
1/4 C pine nuts, toasted
8 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 to 5 C fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 C good olive oil
1 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Place the walnuts, pine nuts and garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Process for 30 seconds.  Add the basil leaves, salt and pepper.  With processor running, slowly pour the olive oil through the feed tube and process until the pesto is finely pureed.  Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute.   Scrape down the sides, give it another whirl and, presto, you've got pesto!

Serve, or spoon mixture into ice-cube trays, and freeze.  Place cubes in freezer bags and store in freezer up to 6 months.   Pop one out in the middle of winter and remember the record heat, the crappy economy, oil ruining the Gulf of Mexico...oh....I mean, remember the lovely scents of summer.  That's better.

Makes about 2 cups.

1 comment:

  1. I LOVE pesto and make it often. Actually I need to make a big batch with all my basil in the garden. I need you to go to BJ's and buy me some pine nuts though.