Friday, August 1, 2008
Fresh Basil Pesto
I am a horrible gardener. In fact, I always say that I have a black thumb instead of a green one because I kill everything I've ever tried to grow!! But I really like to cook with fresh herbs and vegetables, so in the past, I've spent a lot of money on produce and the herbs in the little plastic boxes.
This year, we joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to help keep our produce costs down. You pay a set fee up front and for twenty weeks you get a box of in-season vegetables fresh off the farm! It's been fun trying to figure out what to do with the vegetables we get each week. Some I've had to look up, for example, garlic scapes--never heard of them before? Don't feel bad, most people haven't. It's like getting a little surprise each week! In most cases, it's too late this season to sign up for one in your area, but you can look for one to contact next year at www.localharvest.com.
Our boxes the last three weeks have included beautiful fresh basil, which is one of my favorite herbs!! My absolute favorite way to enjoy basil is in basil pesto! It is a great way to preserve the freshness of the herb. I love to give it as a gift and it looks great in an itty bitty baby food jar. If you'd like to get fancy, you can make labels on your computer to put on the jars, but I usually just take a black sharpie and write in nice handwriting on the jar.
I'm not a big fan of pasta, but I will make an exception and eat fresh pesto on whole wheat spaghetti as a side dish. Here's some ideas for how to use pesto other than on pasta: serve it on Chicken with a slice of tomato and a disc of fresh mozzarella, bake it and shazam you've got Caprese Chicken, try adding it to mashed potatoes instead of butter, spread it on toasted bread instead of garlic butter, spread it on an unbaked pizza crust and top with grilled chicken and shredded mozzarella, or mix it with softened cream cheese to serve on crackers.
It's so easy to make if you have the ingredients and just LOOK at that beautiful bright green color!
Here's my recipe (by the way, do you think Cook's Illustrated or Cook's Country has ever published a pesto recipe--if so, I'd better be careful because my recipe is very basic and they might come after me like they did Melissa from Alosha's Kitchen).
Fresh Basil Pesto
3 cloves of fresh garlic
1/4 c pine nuts, toasted
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 c shredded parmesan
1/2 to 3/4 c olive oil
Peel the garlic and place in your food processor. Add the pine nuts and parmesan and pulse in food processor until all ingredients are coarsely ground. Add in the basil and turn on the processor. While processor is running, drizzle in the olive oil until the mixture looks spreadable. When you pack the pesto into jars or other containers, be sure to cover the top with olive oil to avoid darkening from oxygenation.