Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pesto Rocks.

As promised I plan on posting recipes I've written from time to time (i'll have to delete this blog when i come out with my cookbook, oh well) and I figured I would start with the recipe most recently requested of me.
Disclaimer: my recipes rarely have measured proportions. The terms "smidgeon" and "pinch" and "bunch" are used often. My recipes vary depending on my daily preference, ingredients ripened in the garden, or that day's guest's sensitivities. I would not cook thai curry for my mother, for example, as her head would explode. Similarly I would load anything cooked for just me and my husband with as many chile pequins as i can find in the garden, as our capsicum sensors have burned off long ago.

So here goes, one version of my delicious pesto. There are MANY variables to this recipe, but since i began writing it down when making it instead of just throwing a bunch of undocumented ingredients in and saying 'yum' or 'yuck' afterwards not knowing why - i think this is a good base, and I'll mention some of the potential varieties.

*Most ingredients are grown fresh in my garden. I do not grow pine nuts, seeds, or any nuts but often can get pecans locally from a friend.

Basil: 1/4 Lemon or Lime Basil, 3/4 Genovese (You can also use Blue Basil for the Lemon) Total amount to fill the food processor. Image of processor size below.
Garlic: 4 large cloves, one whole small homegrown bulb, or 6 roasted cloves
Two handfuls toasted pine nuts (be careful to keep 'em moving, they burn easy!)
One handful pecans
3 large pinches shredded Parmesan or Pecorino Romano
Salt and Pepper to taste - if it gets too salty add more nut or cheese
Sundried tomatoes marinating in oil (optional, but the oil gets yummier this way)
Olive oil to facilitate processing

Optional ingredients: dried chillies, fresh serranos, sunflower seeds in place of nuts

Tediously pinch off nice leaves, including the teeny ones, from harvested basil stems (cut just above a Y branch so that basil grows back more). I have to listen to the radio at this point or I would go insane.
Fill your food processor with basil, lightly mushing down occasionally to fully utilize the space. On top of basil sprinkle all other ingredients except for olive oil. Cover with processor lid, pulse a few times, stir in ingredients, pulse a few more times. Carefully add the olive oil in a very thin stream until the ingredients blend smooth. I make my pesto pretty lean on oil as I'm scared of fat, and usually use it mixed with a saute that doesn't need oil later. I find the flavor to be brighter and 'greener' if the oil is kept lean. That being said, if you're planning on pasta with pesto, go ahead and be a little more liberal with your oil. I wouldn't exceed a half cup though.

So that's that. Makes about 1.5 cups delicious pesto. I usually spoon my pesto into ice cube trays, freeze, then store in a ziplock until later. If you want to use it fresh and need to store it in the fridge, put a little olive oil on top or squish some saran wrap tightly to seal in a jar to keep it from browning.

Potential uses for pesto:
Pasta with pesto, olives, sundried tomatoes, sauteed garden veggies and fresh mozzarella (made that last weekend and it was amazing. AMAZING.
Pita pizzas with pesto
Spaghetti with pesto/tomato sauce
Pesto Kale (saute a bunch of fresh kale with about 4 pesto ice cubes. Top with a splash of balsamic when serving. real good and super healthy.

Pesto is great with anything on anything. As a topping, sauce, marinade or dip. Have fun with it and experiment adding new things each time. I have found using lemon basil instead of lemon juice prevents bitterness. Fresh Garlic can also get a little bitter, so keep that in mind.

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Thank you so much for your feedback, especially if you've cooked one of my recipes or tried one of my tips: let me know how it turned out!