Thursday, August 25, 2011

Basil Pesto

I adore basil.

El Hub likes it.

The kids can hardly tolerate it.

Let's take a guess who's going to win in this culinary predicament?

Yep.  Me.  Hands down.

But for as much as I love basil, can you believe I've never made my own pesto?

Until now.  Mark it down.

This year in my little herb garden on my deck, I planted 4 basil plants.  Last year's single plant didn't afford the opportunity to make homemade pesto.

With that in mind, I knew I needed more basil this year.

Such a good decision!  Fresh basil is tender and sweet, with a slightly minty taste.  Its fragrance alone is starting to represent "summer" to me.

Making pesto is a great way to use a large quantity of fresh basil, because unfortunately, there is no good way to preserve its freshness for the doldrums of winter that is still ahead.  Major bummer.

Pesto can be used in a variety of creative ways--as a sauce for pasta, as a spread over toasted bread, mixed with mayo for a wonderfully delightful sandwich condiment, and whatever other ways your tastebuds can think up!  My picture below is a thick slice of french bread, toasted, spread generously with pesto, and topped with a thick slice of heirloom tomato.  Pretty much summer at its freshest!

Basil Pesto
Adapted from The New Best Recipe by America's Test Kitchen

1/4 cup pecans (classic pesto uses pine nuts, but you can substitute almonds or walnuts.  Pecans are what I had on hand.)
3 medium garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 tbl. fresh parsley leaves
7 tbl. olive oil
kosher salt, to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Toast the nuts in a small heavy skillet over medium low heat, stirring frequently until just golden and fragrant, 4-5 minutes.  Transfer to a small plate.

Add the garlic cloves to the empty skillet.  Toast, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant and color of the cloves deepens slightly, about 7 minutes.  Let garlic cool, then peel.

Combine the basil and parsley leaves in a large zip bag.  Pound the bag with the flat side of a meat mallet or rolling pin until all the leaves are bruised (while this will make you sad to "ruin" such pretty leaves, bruising the leaves helps release the herbs' flavors).

Place pecans, garlic, basil and parsley leaves oil and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt in the work bowl of a food processor.  Process until smooth, stopping when necessary to scrape down sides of bowl with a spatula.  Transfer the mixture to a small bowl, and stir in the Parmesan cheese.  Salt again to taste, if necessary.


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