Just in time for Weekend Herb Blogging at Kalyn's Kitchen, Steve brought home two hefty bunches of fresh California basil from our local organic produce market. A big green treat for mid-February. And since basil lore links the peppery-minty herb with amore, I figured the timing was perfect for pesto.
What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than with the intoxicating seduction of fresh basil and garlic?
Having your way with pesto...
Classic pesto is served as a flavorful raw sauce, perfect for cooked pasta in all sizes and shapes.
Pesto is terrific spread on sliced focaccia, gluten-free toast, baked potato skins, or your favorite pizza shell. Steve's favorite pizza recipe: Stir a dollop of pesto on cooked sliced red potatoes; spoon the potatoes on top of a partially baked gluten-free pizza crust and top with crumbled goat cheese . Throw on a handful of sliced ripe olives, some roasted red peppers and feta to add a Greek touch.
Pesto is a wonderful flavor spike for Italian inspired soups. Stir in a spoonful to liven up a minestrone, chunky potato, bean, or garlicky chicken and greens soup. Or float a pesto-slathered crouton in a bowl of fresh tomato bisque.
Options make pesto so individual. Add garlic- or don't. Use pecans, walnuts, almonds or pine nuts. Change out the basil for cilantro or parsley and mint. Add a roasted red pepper or some olives. Pesto can be as varied (and inventive), or as traditional as you make it. And remember, it's wise to taste test and balance the flavors. Have a nibble. Is it a balance of herby- nutty- garlicky- cheesy- salty?
Our Favorite Basil Pesto Recipe
My husband Steve has become the primo pesto maker in the family. Here's his basic recipe.
3 cups washed, fresh basil leaves, stems removed, patted dry
2-4 garlic cloves, peeled- according to taste
1/3-1/2 cup pecans, pine nuts, almonds or walnuts
10 tablespoons fruity extra virgin olive oil, as needed
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, optional- omit for vegan
Pinch of sea salt, if desired
Combine the above ingredients in a food processor and pulse it on and off until it becomes a smooth paste. Taste test for seasoning and texture adjustments.
Use immediately, or cover and chill.
If it becomes stiff add some extra virgin olive oil and stir till smooth.
Pesto will darken if exposed to high heat and will lose its vibrant green color, so don't "cook" pesto in a hot pan or add it to hot pasta in a hot pot; rather, transfer the cooked pasta into a bowl first- then add the pesto and stir gently.
Serve this basil pesto as an appetizer spread on toasted bread, baked artichoke hearts, or triangles of flatbread. Or toss it with warm pasta, roasted potatoes or carrots. Spoon it on toast, croutons, pizza shells or crackers.
To keep the pesto fresh, I layer mine with a thin coat of extra virgin olive oil on the top before I cover and store it in an air-tight container, chilled. Storage isn't usually a concern, as pesto disappears quickly in our house.
Some folks like to freeze pesto in ice cube trays, but I've never had enough extra pesto to set aside.