This year I grew so much basil that it’s coming out of my ears. Well, not quite but you get the picture. I grew thirteen flats of basil and after spring sales were over I still had six flats left. Times that by the fifteen pots per flat and I had ninety basil plants to find homes for. Friends were eager to take some home. I tucked plants into various containers with flowers and vegetables. I used the Thai basil as an edging plant and announced to the world that basil was the new edging plant for 2014. I have had several pesto making sessions and yesterday was a scramble to get the basil harvested and pesto made in between all the renovation planning we are doing. Yes, we are taking the plunge and will be in renovations in the fall. Finding time for the garden is hard now but harvesting needs to be done.
I cut off the center stems on only a third of my basil plants and brought a bowl in to wash off. I give the leaves a quick rinse and place them on towels to drain. Someone asked me yesterday if I use the stems. I actually use the top part of the stems as they are quite soft. I snip off any open flowers but tight buds are used in pesto making. I don’t think you have to be too fussy. Its gets all blended in the food processor anyway.
I was making three types of pesto so I picked some parsley and rosemary from the garden. I wanted to try some different recipes and came across some new ones over at the Luna Cafe. I wanted to try out the rosemary hazelnut pesto and the basil olive pesto. There are other recipes on the site but making these special ones plus the regular recipe for pesto was enough for one day. The key is to have all your ingredients ready. I was happy to have the herbs from the garden and lots of freshly harvested garlic. All I needed to buy was oil, olives and nuts.
I love my old food processor. It’s lasted many years and makes short work of grinding up nuts and basil for pesto. I like to add the nuts first and then the greens. I blend it first to reduce the amount in the processor before adding more ingredients. A couple of quick pulses usually does the job and I like to scrape the sides down between pulses. Be sure to turn the processor off when removing the lid. Safety first!
Next I add the garlic, cheese and olives for the olive basil pesto. The olives are brined so it adds salt to the pesto giving it a burst of flavour. Making pesto is quite interchangeable. You can substitute pine nuts for walnuts, almonds or hazelnuts. I would try to keep the amount of nuts the same. For example, I made the rosemary hazelnut pesto and it called for two cups of hazelnuts. This made the pesto very thick and I had to add more oil to get the consistency I liked. So there may be some give and take when increasing your ingredients. It all depends on how you like your pesto.
Once you have blended your pesto to the right consistency, spoon it into Ziploc freezer bags, label them as above and place in the freezer if you are not using it right away. I like to squish the freezer bags flat so the bags stack nicely in the freezer. You should also be able to snap off a piece of pesto in whatever size you need. Of course, most recipes only make about one cup of pesto so you are sure to use it all up. Store any leftover pesto in an airtight container in the fridge as pesto exposed to the air will turn brown. It’s still good to eat for several days. Enjoy it over baked potatoes, chicken or fish or over pasta. I like to add it to sour cream and use it as a dip.
For my regular pesto recipe hop on over to Can You Say Pesto?