GARDEN FRESH BASIL PESTO
I was missing my gardens real bad a few days ago, when it dawned on me, that I could still make homemade pesto whether I had a garden or not! I don't have to grow the basil myself. I can buy the basil from the Farmer's Market in town or from the local farm stand. DUH! It's just starting to flower here in Rhode Island, and I'd rather have it before it flowers. I think it tastes better!
I bought this great big bunch for $1.99 right out of the garden. I went to Morris Farms and asked if they were picking basil yet. The lady said, "Wait just a moment, I'll go right out and pick you some!" Before I could argue the logistics and my time constraints, she hopped on her old Schwinn bicycle and headed off into the field to pick me some basil! I didn't wait too long when I saw her peddling back to the stand. The basket hanging off her handle bars was full of the most fragrant and lush dark green basil that you could imagine! She asked, "Is this OK?" Uh, yeah!
I took my coveted basil home. It smelled up the whole car. It was full of sand from the hard rain and hail we got earlier that week. I put it in a sink full of cold water and rinsed it about 4 times, then let it air dry on a clean towel. The boat smelled heavenly, like an Italian restaurant! It made my mouth water. I wanted to make every recipe I could think of that used basil as an ingredient! BUT, I bought it for pesto. Darn! I wished I'd bought 5 bunches.
I took out my mini food processor and had to make it in three batches. Normally, it would have taken only one trip around the inside of the bowl. No matter, it was quick and easy and I was done in no time. I started out with a huge bunch and all I got out of it was about 6 ounces! But it was fresh and concentrated and yummy and cheap!
That night, I made a fantastic Grilled Pesto Pizza, no red sauce, just pesto and cheese. It was mouthwatering and we salivated as it was grilling. I opened a bottle of 2004 Australian Mad Fish Shiraz. We drank it as we waited at the head of the dock for that tempting pizza to come off the grill. It was everything I hoped for and then some! We ate the whole thing, then we ate another one!
BASIL PESTO is very easy to make, easier to freeze and even easier to use in all sorts of recipes. When I had my gardens back in Vermont, I used to grow around 25 plants each year. That yielded me soooo much basil that I had pesto for the entire year until I harvested it again! I started out by freezing it in ice cube trays and if you have a little Betty Crocker kitchen, that's good enough for you. But we used it for catering as well as for ourselves. I packed the finished basil in plastic pint containers, stacked them in rows and froze the whole lot. The night before I needed pesto, I took it out of the freezer and let it thaw in the fridge. Presto, Chango, I had pesto!
I used pesto for pasta salad, pizza, bruschetta, soups, salad dressings, appetizers, spaghetti sauce and anything else I could dream up! When you see basil at the Farmer's Market or at your local farm stand, buy a bunch of bunches and make your own pesto. You'll be glad you did and will never spend ridiculous money on store-bought pesto again!
GARDEN FRESH BASIL PESTO RECIPE
- 1 large bunch fresh basil (about 4 cups loosely packed leaves, stems and branches removed)
- 2-4 garlic cloves to taste
- 2-4 Tablespoons really good olive oil
- 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup pine nuts (optional)
This recipe can be varied according to taste. Use a different cheese, more cheese, nuts, whatever you have on hand. It's your pesto, make it the way you like it!
- Rinse the basil as many times as necessary to remove all sand. Pat it dry with paper towel or let it air dry.
- Place the leaves in the bowl of a large food processor. (You may have to do this twice depending on the size of the FP.)
- Pulse until the leaves have been chopped quite a bit.
- Add garlic and pulse again.
- With the FP running, add the olive oil one Tablespoon at a time through the opening. Turn the machine off and scrape down.
- Add the parmesan cheese and pine nuts and pulse again until you get the consistency you want. Some people like their pesto coarse, others like it pureed. You decide.
- Remove to a container with a lid on it and cover lightly with a piece of plastic. As soon as the air hits the pesto, it starts to turn brown. It doesn't look very appetizing, but there's nothing wrong with it. You can stir it back in or scrape it off...but what a waste that would be!
- Freeze tightly covered for many months or refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
- Make something good and invite me over!
Remember the Pasta, Pesto & Peas recipe I posted for Barefoot Bloggers a few weeks ago? You can make that with your homemade pesto too!