16 September 2009

End of Summer Basil Pesto

Every year, as we approach the end of summer, I look out at my basil patch and groan. "What am I going to do with all that basil?"

This year, I planted both large leaf basil and new-to-me Globe basil. (Globe basil is fantastic, but that's another conversation.) Well, my one and only large leaf plant grew to the size of a small tree, I kid you not. I finally went over and broke off the tallest branch, with the intent of tossing it into the compost bin. But then I looked at all that bright green basil in my hand and thought, "Nooooo. Pesto!"
I enlisted the help of my 2yr old to strip the leaves off the stems, and was left with a gigantic bowl of basil leaves. This, combined with my teeny tiny food processor, meant that I would have to make the pesto in batches. Bonus for you, I've scaled down my "recipe" to the batch size, which made enough pesto for one dinner for me, hubs, and the two little ones.

End of Summer Basil Pesto
4 Cups basil leaves, loosely packed
3 cloves garlic
1 handful pine nuts (about 1/3 cup, for you measurers)
3 swirls around the food processor with extra virgin olive oil (about 3 Tbsps)
1/2 Cup grated parmesan cheese*
Salt, to taste**

Pack the basil into your food processor. Cram it in there, if necessary, it'll be OK. Add garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil. Add the cheese if it fits; if not, you can stir it in later.
Pulse until finely chopped. Pesto = paste, after all. Mine looks like chunky paste, and that's OK with me. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber scraper, if needed.

*At this point, taste your pesto. When I did this, I knew immediately that something was off. A quick Google search revealed that I forgot the parmesan cheese! Oops. It was no problem. I just stirred it into the cheese-less pesto (in a bowl) and it was fine.

**After adding the cheese, taste for saltiness. If you think it needs additional salt, add 1/2 tsp at a time, mix thoroughly, and taste again.

And if you make a big batch like I did, feel free to freeze the leftovers in meal-size portions. I used mini-loaf pans (lined with plastic wrap so the frozen pesto would be easy to remove). You could use ice cube trays for single servings.

Ah, cooking is an adventure for me. I rarely measure. I've been known to forget key ingredients (like the parmesan), and if I don't have them on hand, I can usually find something similar to substitute. Don't be afraid to experiment with your food. Create!

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