Thursday, February 5, 2009

Basil Pesto

Every year I plant basil in the Spring and by Summer's end, the plants have gone crazy. Matt's not a big fan of it in salads and sandwiches like me, so I usually can't use it up fast enough. The unseasonably warm weather we've been having has caused my withered plants to have a tiny revival, so I decided to blend up a batch of Pesto.

This is a pretty straightforward recipe. Most pesto recipes call for pinenuts, but I have also made it with walnuts with equally tasty results! You can use Parmesan or Romano cheese. Romano has a bit stronger flavor. By quickly dipping the basil leaves in boiling water, it will help the pesto keep it's vibrant green color longer, even when frozen and defrosted.

If you want to freeze the pesto you make, omit the cheese (it doesn't freeze well). When you are ready to use it, defrost and add in the grated Parmesan or Romano.

2 cups fresh basil leaves packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spread nuts evenly on a rimmed baking sheet; toast in oven until golden and fragrant, tossing once, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely.
Meanwhile, bring 4 cups salted water to a boil; add basil, and submerge with a spoon.
Immediately drain in a colander. Rinse with cold water until cool, then pat basil completely dry in paper towels.
In a food processor, combine toasted nuts, basil, and garlic; season generously with salt and pepper. Process until nuts are finely chopped.
With food processor running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream through the feed tube; process until smooth.
Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula.
Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended.
Use immediately, or freeze.
To freeze, spoon pesto into an ice-cube tray and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze overnight, then transfer cubes to a resealable plastic bag; keep up to 6 months.

Defrost pesto cubes at room temperature, about 20 minutes (or at 30-second intervals in the microwave). Mash with a fork and add grated cheese before using in recipes. Serve with pasta, or over baked potatoes, or spread over toasted baguette slices.


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