We’re about half way through the summer by now. Yes, it is a terrible thing to say. But, the good thing about it is that for the lucky and talented ones out there, your garden is probably in full bloom. And for the even luckier, your neighbors probably have a shit load of mid-summer basil they need to get rid of. Like, a lot. I am one of the luckier ones. A couple of days ago my downstairs neighbor gave me so much basil I could’ve bathed in it. And that much basil only means on thing: homemade pesto extravaganza!
On that note, I’d like to share with you of few pesto-making-hacks I’ve established during my own cooking process.
First off, don’t underestimate the importance of prep time. Since you are using freshly picked basil leaves, you have no choice but to pull each leaf off of its stem, wash them, and dry them. You’ll get better results from it.
Secondly, the basic pesto recipe calls for pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan, three ingredients which amount to a lot of money when you are making a big batch of the sauce. Fear not my friends, there are much cheaper ways to make delicious pesto, the common ingredients being fresh basil, garlic, oil (lots of it), salt, and pepper. Here a couple of ideas of what to throw in your food processor along with your basic ingredients, which you want to get ready before you start processing your basil:
Almonds (or any other cheaper nuts) : throw in a handful of toasted almonds in with your basic ingredients for an added crunchiness. This one is my favorite kind to do. No cheese needed, just salt it to taste.
Dried Tomatoes : same idea as with the almonds. If you are using very chewy dry tomatoes, let them soak in hot water for about 20 minutes before you start. And as a favor to your food processor, it’s always a good idea to chop them up a bit before putting them in with the rest. This pesto will be silkier and richer than a nut one.
Grilled Green Onions: depending on how much basil you have, you could do about half the quantity in green onions. Chop and lightly cook in a pan before adding to the rest of the ingredients. Since this pesto is creamier yet less attractive, it serves as a good stuffing option for meat, pasta, sandwiches, or whatever else you like to stuff.
You get the idea. Be creative.
Third of all, if you are working with a big batch of pesto, try doing it in smaller quantities at a time in your food processor, and setting everything aside in a big bowl. That way, all of your smaller portions will be mixed together into one, common and delicious batch, which you can taste and adjust as you go along.
Last but not least, when you are satisfied with your results, put that baby away. I suggest using Mason jars but don’t panic if you don’t have any. Plastic containers are fine. The idea here is to split your pesto into smaller portions, because if you keep your whole batch in your fridge it will go bad very quickly. You’ve been warned. When separating your batch into your containers, always remember to drizzle the top with oil to cover the exposed basil. This will keep your pesto fresh longer (read: you can add oil to it in between usage to keep longer). And freeze, or share.
So there you have it, not too complicated, surprisingly fun, and for sure delicious. Happy pesto extravaganza to all.