Over the last little while, I’ve been thinking a lot about recipes to post on the blog. “Something impressive, no doubt. Something that photographs deliciously such as gooey, succulent ribs or a colourful salad filled with trendy grains and kale,” I thought.
This past weekend, Vancouver was hit with a heat wave after days of pouring rain and no one, myself included, was mentally or physically prepared for what real summer weather entailed. As a result, J. and I rarely cooked at home. Even boiling macaroni felt unbearable. Let me be clear though: I am not complaining! Bring on the heat, I say!
Consequently, pesto has been a staple in this household. Simple, no heat preparation and a convenient multi-use sauce/condiment/dip. You can’t go wrong.
I’ve been making pesto Genovese, which is the classic pesto that we’ve all come to love: basil, garlic, and pine nuts. But ‘pesto’ literally means ‘to pound’ or ‘to crush’, thus the logic goes: you can make pesto with just about anything so long as you are pounding and/or crushing. The recipe I share below can be easily substituted with other delicious possibilities that I’ve included at the bottom. So, do as I say and not as I do: experiment with your pesto.
(adapted from Martha Rose Shulman via New York Times)
You can honestly eat pesto with just about anything. The usual go-to meal is to toss it with some pasta, which is a classic for good reason. Just recently, I’ve been topping it on rice crackers, fresh roma tomatoes, and mozzarella. Joy the Baker recommends spooning it on top of roasted hasselback potatoes and Sprouted Kitchen suggests dressing an arugula salad with it. Either way, it’s easy and flavourful, which is exactly what I look for when it comes to summertime cooking.
3-4 garlic cloves
2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (toasting them makes a huge difference in flavour!)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (can mix or replace with pecorino)
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
If you want to be traditional, use a mortar and pestle, but otherwise use a blender or food processor. Add garlic cloves, basil, and pine nuts and pulse to chop. Then add parmesan cheese and combine. Drizzle in olive oil while your blender or food processor is doing it’s thing. Add more or less oil than what’s recommended depending on the consistency you like. Then add salt and pepper to taste.
To keep in the refrigerator, store the pesto in a jar with a thin layer of olive oil to prevent browning. To freeze, I like to put it in a ziploc bag and spread it out into a thin layer so that I can easily break off pieces, depending on how much I need. I find it lasts a few months in the freezer. Martha Shulman recommends that you puree the basil with olive oil and salt only. And then when it’s time to use it, puree the garlic and pine nuts, then add the thawed basil puree and parmesan cheese. I never have the foresight to do this, but I found that the ziploc method worked just fine for me.
Other Pesto Possibilities:
- Blanched kale + toasted walnuts (see Sprouted Kitchen)
- Fresh peas + pine nuts (see Smitten Kitchen)
- Garlic scapes + arugula + walnuts (see Everybody Loves Sandwiches)
- Spinach + cashews + lemon juice (see Joy the Baker)