Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Make your own basil pesto

Basil pesto is a simple and delicious sauce to add to pasta, pizza, grilled chicken or vegetables. Like so many foods it is much better homemade. When you make pesto at home instead of buying it at the store the flavors are fresher, you can modify the ingredients to your own tastes, and the planet is spared one more plastic container. It is also easy and fun to make! It only takes about 10 minutes and it's a very kid-friendly project. 

The most important ingredient is, of course, the basil. We grow Genovese basil and have it at the market generally from July through November. We harvest and sell our basil with the roots left on so that it can be placed in a vase or glass of water and stay fresh for weeks. I leave my basil bunches in a vase on my kitchen counter which looks pretty and smells great. It also encourages me to use basil in so many different dishes (and not forget about it in the fridge!). I'll add a big handful of coarsely chopped basil to a pot of soup, a bowl of pasta or a plate of eggs. It's also delicious on pizza and layered in sandwiches.

My basil pesto recipe comes from THE BEST COOKBOOK EVER, The Art of Simple Food By Alice Waters. I cook something from this cookbook practically every day. My copy is dusted with flour, stained with beets, and cracked at the spine. There is a delicious, not difficult recipe for cooking everything we grow at Dirty Girl Produce.

BASIL PESTO (Adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters)

1) In a mortar and pestle pound into a paste one clove of garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt. If you don't have a mortar and pestle you can use a food processor or you can use a regular bowl and any pestle-like kitchen tool you might already have (a meat-pounder might work). 

2) Add and continue to pound 1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts or walnuts.

3) Add 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

4) Coarsely chop 1 packed cup of basil leaves and add to the mortar/bowl with the garlic, nuts and cheese. Pound it all together.

5) Continue pounding while you slowly pour in 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Pesto texture is a matter of preference. I make ours a bit chunkier and uneven but make yours however you like.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups pesto.

Pesto freezes well so while basil is in season make extra batches. Transfer pesto to a container, cover the surface of the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil, put on the lid, and freeze.