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Eclecticisms: Basil Pesto

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Basil Pesto

How bitter sweet the days of September are. The joy of the upcoming cooler weather and watching the earth transform itself yet again in such beautiful arrays of colors and scents makes watching my garden fade all the more bearable.This weekend I finally harvested my basil which had gone for too long. I still got quite a bit (and will get a bit more before the season is out) but lost many leaves to the sun.

Has anyone grown basil indoors? Did it work? I'm going to miss fresh basil.

Basil loses much of its flavor and scent when dried, so I decided not to dry any in my dehydrator this year. Instead, I made pesto! I made one batch with cheese and one without. Cheese doesn't freeze well, so when I'm ready to use that batch down the line, I'll either eat it as is or throw it back in the food processor after it's thawed. We'll see.

I made the pesto batch with cheese  into a cream sauce and it turned out pretty good! I didn't follow a specific recipe (pesto is very versatile and you adjust ingredients to taste), but instead compared about 6 of the ones I found online and improvised. It would be fattier, but next time I might use heavy cream and omit the roux and light cream. It worked well, but I'm always looking to try new variations! (Though sometimes it takes me years to tear myself away from a favorite dish of mine and finally try a substitution.)

Here's my recipe. For a freezable version, just omit the cheese. The great thing about pesto is that you can improvise to your heart's content. Add some mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, parsley- the options are endless! (Let me say that there are many, many other "great" things about pesto. I just don't have that kind of time...)


2.5 Cups (packed) fresh basil
1/3 Cup Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/2 Cup olive oil
1/4 Cup pine nuts
4 med. garlic cloves

You can edit, omit, replace or add to this list of ingredients. Let your imagination run wild! Next, I want to make a wild mushroom pesto. If it turns out well, I may just stock up on wild mushrooms and never leave my house again.OK- maybe to get more mushrooms.

In your food processor, blend together basil, garlic and cheese until finely chopped. Add oil and pulse until thoroughly combined.

If you can't serve immediately (recommended), make sure to store in an air tight container. If it gets a bit brown, just give it a stir and it will be fine. Add a bit of olive oil to the top to help stop it from browning if you're going to refrigerate it or won't use it right away. (Pesto browns the way an apple or avocado might, but even faster!)

Voila! You're done!

Or you can keep going...

If you make the pesto without cheese, line small containers with ceran wrap and freeze. (Ice cube trays, muffin tins, small bowls, or just about anything that will be OK in the freezer for a day and fits the portion size you're looking to freeze.) Transfer to a freezer bag when it's fully frozen. You'll have fresh, home made pesto in the winter!

More ideas, you ask? How about creamy pesto sauce! I winged this and it turned out pretty damn well. I definitely recommend adding sauteed mushrooms to whatever you serve it with. Their flavors are perfectly complementary.


3 Tbs butter
3 Tbs flour
1 1/2-2 Cup light cream (half and half)
1 Cup freshly made pesto (See above)
Salt and pepper to taste

Begin with a roux. Melt the butter in a medium sized sauce pan. Once melted, gradually add the flour, whicking constantly over medium heat. Your roux should  be a nice golden color when it's done, about 3-5 minutes.

Once the roux is done, add the cream. Don't add it all at once, as you might want to leave a bit of it out, depending on the consistency you're looking for. Make sure to keep stirring/whisking the sauce so it doesn't start to bubble and keep whisking until it's completely smooth. You don't want lumps! The sauce will thicken as it cooks.

Serve over any dish you'd like. A great appetizer or finger food is italian bread with a thin layer of pesto, fresh juicy tomato and a small chunk of mozzerella. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. I served mine over orchiette tossed with sauteed shitake mushrooms. Talk about delicious!


Happy Eating!

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At September 15, 2011 at 5:26 PM , Blogger ohkeeka said...

Creamy pesto sauce?! Yum!

I've grown basil indoors--you can definitely do it. The best luck I had was with my Aerogarden, but I had a little container several years back and I think it did well for a few months.


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