August 7, 2009

When life gives you basil, make pesto

Genovese and Red Rubin Basil above

In my garden plantings, I went overboard on basil. I literally planted enough to start my own vending cart at the farmer's market "apartment gardens" shieeeeeet! And I have a tiny garden! Even if you haven't grown basil, it is super cheap this time of the year.

So as "when life gives you lemon, you make lemonade" - when life gives you basil, you make pesto. Costco-sized batches of it. Pesto stores well in the freezer and pretty much goes with anything.

Favorite uses:
Pasta sauce - base
Roasted pesto potatoes or roasted pesto veggies
pizza sauce - base
throw some in a soup for pesto-y soupy
pesto-bread both in baked bread, or as dipping sauce.
Risotto with pesto

I have a 14 cup food processor so I process everything once, and end up with around 3 cups of pesto. In past attempts, and mostly because I didn't have parmesan when I had everything else to make pesto, leaving out the parmesan will reduce your yield. This may seem obvious. I bring this up because it was a useful mistake. Adding the parmesan when ready to use the pesto is amazing. If it has been sitting in your freezer for 3-4 months and it's the middle of winter, you can add back in some extra olive oil - the freezer may dry it out. I've found this happens when you pull it in and out of the freezer. Below I have used less olive oil precisely because of this. You can do what you want. Pesto always tastes good. Once done and processed I put in ice-cube trays, freeze, and transfer to a ziplock or other airtight container. You have individual portions of pesto at the ready.

If using a smaller food processor, just do it in batches. If by hand, again in batches, and give it a whole morning, afternoon and maybe evening (probably around 3 hours). The aromas will be totally worth every second. I guess you could also do it by blender as well although you may have to be creative with the liquid ratio.

Yield - 2-4 cups (around 4 cups if you use parmesan & more olive oil than is here)
1-1/2 cups OR 12 ounces parmesan (any fine parmesan you can afford), cut into inches and at room temperature. You may also choose to omit the parmesan if freezing, and just add it to your food later. Please, whatever you do, don't use the "parmesan" processed food science in the green cans. Avoid. Your whole batch will be ruined.
6-9 cloves garlic, peeled. Use more or less if you like.
3/4 - 1 cup olive oil (use less if you think you'll add back in at a later date)
1 cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon salt (add more if you feel it needs it - I undersalt things)
8 cups basil, washed and dried, loosely packed in measuring cups (if you have around 4 cups of basil just halve everything above, and if you have more than 8 cups, good for you, and adjust as necessary. Conversion is new yield/old yield = conversion factor. Then multiply everything in the original recipe by the conversion factor. Totally nerdy, yet incredibly useful.

1. Put the metal chopping blades in the food processor and place the parmesan and garlic in the mixing bowl. Process until a fine paste is formed (10 seconds).
2. Add in pine nuts and salt and process, scraping down the sides until nice and pasty.
3. Add in basil and replace lid. Through the feed tube, begin pouring olive oil. Wait 2 seconds then begin processing, replacing olive oil as needed and stopping to scrape down sides as needed.
4. Store a small amount in fridge, to use this week. Freeze the rest for later use.

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