Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fresh Basil Pesto

If you know me at all, you know that I LOVE basil. And is it really so hard to understand why?! Basil is so fresh-tasting and delicious that almost anything you add it to automatically tastes fresher and better! If you need convincing of this, get yourself some fresh basil and try this: take approximately 10 basil leaves and roll and slice them thinly, then sprinkle it over the top of a plain frozen cheese pizza. It won't taste like any other frozen pizza you've ever had, that's for sure!
Even though I like using the basil leaves fresh off the plant by themselves, one of my favorite things to do with fresh basil is to make pesto. The best thing about this is that it preserves well, so you can keep it for a year and enjoy the same fresh herb taste in the middle of winter that you could in the middle of summer! After you have prepared the fresh pesto, all you have to do is fill the compartments of an ice cube tray with the mixture and freeze it until it's solid. When the pesto is frozen, just pop it out of the ice cube trays and place the frozen blocks into a freezer-safe zip top bag to keep in the freezer for whenever you need or want them. You could wrap the frozen blocks of pesto in plastic wrap before placing in the freezer bag, if you would like, and that will help hold it all together, but it's not necessary.
Now, after you've made the fresh pesto, there are countless things you can do with it. Mix it into fresh-cooked pasta before adding the sauce... Mix it with mayonnaise to use on sandwiches... Use it as a sauce on pizzas... Serve with crostini... Etc.
The only thing that I have to say is this... Pine nuts are DISGUSTING!! If I wanted my food to taste like a pine tree, I would go gnaw off some of the tree and just eat that. I don't know which crazy individual discovered that pine nuts are edible and then decided it would be a good idea to eat them, but it's just wrong. Pine nuts are just what you might presume - they're the seeds from inside pine cones. Someone goes and breaks open pine cones to harvest the little seeds from inside of them so that the delusional people who are told how yummy they are will eat them and then disillusion themselves further by convincing themselves that they taste good. Who are these people?! They are just wrong! I ALWAYS use walnuts, which ARE yummy, in my pesto, and I've never had bad results. :-)

½ c. walnuts
3 - 4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 - 5 oz. fresh basil leaves
½ tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 - 1½ c. olive oil
1 c. freshly grated Parmesan

Place the garlic in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until garlic is coarsely chopped. Add the walnuts to the bowl and pulse again until the walnuts are chopped and mixed with the garlic, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add the basil leaves, salt, and pepper in batches; with the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and process until the pesto is thoroughly pureed. Add the Parmesan and puree for a minute.

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