A shout out to my girlfriends via a text message was the start to a very fun evening. I had just returned from a month at the lake and to my dismay and delight I came home to bushels of herbs ready to be harvested. I had tarragon, coriander, sage, thyme, chives and tons and tons of basil.
I sent the message to my girlfriends–geez, we’ve been friends for 20+ years, asking if anyone needed any basil. Well, you know when several people are texting how confusing it can get. The gist was that Kelly wanted some basil but she wanted to learn how to make pesto. I invited them all over to make pesto and several of the girls came over at various stages of the process. We had a little wine, we chatted a bit and laughed a lot!
I have to admit it is a little embarrassing to say you are “teaching” someone how to make pesto. It is such an easy process and very forgiving.
There are two really important things you need to know about pesto. One, the ingredients can very widely. Two, the only really important thing you need to be careful of is to keep air and pesto apart. When you are packing it in containers, always put a little bit of plastic wrap right on top of it, kind of like you would a pudding to avoid a skin. When there is too much air, pesto can turn dark, and who wants that?
I’m going to give you a pesto recipe that I have used for years. Then I am going to tell you that I never follow it. I use it as a guideline. You will see what I mean.
Besto Pesto (clever title, don’t you think?)
1/2 cup nuts (pinenuts, walnuts, almonds–any combination as long as it adds up to 1/2 cup)
6-9 cloves of peeled garlic
5 cups of packed, clean basil
1 tsp of salt (sea or kosher)
1 tsp of pepper (fresh ground is best)
1 1/2 cups of quality olive oil
1 cup of grated cheese, a hard Italian cheese like parmesan or romano or a mix
Start by filling your food processor with the nuts and garlic. Pulse until both are well processed. Add the basil, salt and pepper and continue to processes. When all reaches an even consistency slowly pour in the olive oil from the top chute while continuing the processing . Add 1 cup of graded cheese and processes for about 10 seconds more.
Pour into containers, add the plastic wrap and seal the containers.
Hints for pesto:
1. Put some in ice cube trays or small containers. (make sure to cover well with plastic wrap). Place in freezer to save. If using ice cub trays–when they are frozen pop out and store in a zip lock bag. When you are making a stew, stoup just pop a cube or two into the pot.
2. The small containers also make quick meals for one or two people. My daughter would come home from work at night, cook some pasta and throw a cube or two in.
3. I mix a cube or two in cream cheese for a delicious, quick spread for crackers.
4. Want to pack a punch into a savory smoothie? Throw a couple of cubes in.
5. Place a “plop” of pesto on a small puddle of olive oil (on a plate of course!) and garnish with coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper.. Serve with bread.
6. Tonight my niece came home from work and I made her a quick pesto cream sauce and served it over pasta. I cheat. I heat up cream cheese in a sauce pan, add pesto and milk and fresh parmesan cheese and a little pasta water and toss with pasta.
Just a few suggestions.
Now I challenge you. Comment on this post and tell me how you use pesto. Are there any ingredients that you have added to pesto before that I have not mentioned?
I look forward to hearing from you!