Pesto was splattered across my kitchen counter (and my left cheek) like emerald war paint. Last weekend I harvested the basil from my first real garden—this was no small trimming of potted plants but a veritable felling of bushes. Within an hour I had transformed my once white kitchen into a speckled green pesto plant, buzzing out batches of the green stuff to freeze for winter.
Having been a city girl up until this summer, last weekend was my first real foray into home preserving (where preparing for winter was actually the intention, as opposed to simply putting up leftovers), and it was surprisingly satisfying. There’s comfort in producing food for the future (even if it’s just a couple of quarts of pesto), perhaps hardwired into our DNA from centuries when preservation was no mere hobby, but a critical means of survival. Come to think of it, as we currently face an economy gone haywire along with skyrocketing food costs, reconnecting with the pleasures of preserving might not be such a bad idea.
I made two different styles of pesto—a Classic Pesto and a Thai Basil & Pistachio Pesto (below)—which I portioned into recycled sandwich bags then froze flat so that they wouldn’t take up too much space in my already busy freezer. In the doldrums of winter, when fresh herbs are as scarce as warm sunshine, the bags will be a more than welcome addition to everything from fresh linguini to pressed paninis, fluffy frittatas, seared shrimp and stuffed chicken… without costing me a dime. What a delicious comfort.
Next weekend I’m going to tackle a roasted heirloom tomato sauce made with produce from our local farm stand. And next year… it’s onto canning.
Classic Pesto Nothing brightens a dish easier than a dollop of pesto; its uses are endless (paninis, pasta, frittatas, pizza, chicken, seafood…).
2 garlic cloves, peeled 5 cups packed basil leaves 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or walnut pieces Juice of 1/2 lemon 1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano Salt & pepper to taste 1/4 cup water 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
In a food processor with the motor running, drop the garlic cloves in through the feed tube and finely chop. Turn off the motor, scrap down the sides, and add the basil, pine nuts, lemon juice, Parmigiano and a pinch of salt and pepper. Process until finely chopped. Add the water and process until smooth. With the motor running, slowly pour the extra virgin olive oil in through the feed tube. Taste and season the pesto with additional salt and pepper if desired.
Thai Basil & Pistachio Pesto Try this vibrant Asian inspired pesto spooned over seafood and chicken, stirred into soups and coconut-based curries, tossed with pasta, or used as a dip for veggies.
2 garlic cloves, peeled 1-in by 1/2-in piece of ginger, peeled 3/4 cup shelled pistachios 5 cups packed Thai basil leaves Juice of 1/2 lime 2 teaspoons fish sauce 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut 1 tablespoon Indonesian palm sugar, or dark brown sugar 1/4 teaspoon Sriracha Salt & pepper 1/4 cup water 1 cup peanut oil
In a food processor with the motor running, drop the garlic cloves and ginger in through the feed tube and finely chop. Turn off the motor, scrap down the sides, and add the pistachios. Pulse until the pistachios are coarsely chopped. Add the basil, lime juice, fish sauce, coconut, palm or brown sugar, siracha and a pinch of salt and pepper. Process until finely ground. Add the water and process until smooth. With the motor running, slowly pour the peanut oil in through the feed tube. (This recipe produces a fairly thick pesto; add additional oil if a thinner consistency is desired). Taste and season the pesto with additional salt and pepper if desired.