In case you haven’t guessed it, I am a huge fan of locally produced goods. Come summertime, peek into my kitchen and you’ll find my frig packed full of garden-fresh eggplant, zucchini, colorful peppers, tomatoes, onions, fresh herbs and more!
If I can get my hands on enough basil, I love to make heavenly, summer pesto. Quite versatile, pesto has many and varying uses. And it freezes nicely so you have a ready fix throughout the winter.
As I mentioned, for the making of a delicious pesto you do need an abundance of fragrant basil. Compare the sautéing and blending of basil with that of cooking spinach. The volume will reduce significantly.
The good news is that you can match your basil 4 to 1 with parsley for this recipe (3 to 1 in a pinch!). And note that while you can freeze the finished product, fresh basil does not like cold temperatures. Be ready to prepare your recipe soon after acquisition and do not store this herb in the refrigerator. However it will remain happy for a few days with the stems trimmed and submerged in water.
Traditionally, pine nuts are used in a pesto. Though these little goodies are delicious, they are quite pricey. After much experimenting, I have discovered my favorite pesto is made with raw sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Actually, any nut of choice is a great substitute, such as walnuts, pecans, or cashews.
4 cups fresh basil leaves, generously packed
1 cup fresh parsley (about 1/2 a bunch from the grocery)
8 cloves roasted garlic (raw 5-6)
1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/3 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt to taste (1-2 tsp or so)
Yields 1-1/4 cups of vibrant green deliciousness!
Begin by gently washing your basil and then plucking the sweet leaves. Next, drain and dry off your basil leaves. The easiest way is to use a handy salad spinner. You can include the whole parsley with stems trimmed just a bit at the bottom.
Wash your lemons well. Roll them to release the juices and then use a zester or peeler to remove the yellow portion of the skin.
Now it’s time to begin blending. Fill your food processor with the herbs, I don’t recommend a blender. Add the other ingredients and blend until you reach a smooth consistency, add a little more olive oil if necessary.
As suggested, there are multitude uses for pesto in cooking and food preparation. Swap your marinara for pesto when making homemade pizzas or pasta. Slather it on your grilled burger, top your pork, toss with sautéed veggies and accent a caprese salad or bake with a savory bruschetta! (See recipe below.)
Freeze your pesto in small, zip-loc bags. Press flat and stack in the freezer. One-portion cubes can be frozen in trays and then stored in freezer bags. I found silicone bourbon ice cube trays work great for a double portion and can be found at the Liquor Barn. Don’t forget to label and date these spreadable treats!
Slice at an angle 1.5” thick pieces of a whole grain baguette.
Brush your delightful, home-made pesto on one side. Add sautéed veggies or sprinkle with fresh, chopped tomatoes and onions. Add your choice of cheese. (I recommend buffalo mozzarella, Parmesan or a soft goat cheese.) Melt under broiler until cheese bubbles, drizzle with olive oil. This makes a great appetizer!