Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pesto Manifesto

I believe in pesto.
I believe that pesto is one of the universe's most perfect green foods.
I believe that you should make many batches of pesto in the fall to freeze and supply you though the winter.

This year our basil patch in the greenhouse has been extraordinary. While the garden basil is past its prime,  weedy and seedy and scruffy and tough, the high tunnel basil is still picture-perfect, with large, tender leaves and full, abundant plants. But the basil's days are numbered - it will very soon be too cold for basil even in the greenhouse, and it's time to transplant some cold season crops into that precious spot.

I have been meaning to transform that basil into pesto  for weeks, but dreading it because our old blender is just not up to the task. It is so annoying trying to get the leaves to feed down to the blades to be chopped up and not just whirl around intact. But, this week I splurged on a new blender/food processor called a Ninja, that boasted excellent consumer reviews. It has 1500 watts of power, but what impressed me most was that there is not a single blade at the bottom, but three tiers of blades! That ought to chop up the greens for my pesto and my smoothies. So, today I pulled up a few basil plants and eagerly loaded my pesto ingredients into the blender.
What a joyful experience - perfect pesto in moments! No intervention required to get the leaves to blend.  And the texture was just how I like it, with tiny, discernible bits of  parmesan, pine nuts and basil, not a green pureed mush. Oh, I am so happy with this new toy, I mean, tool.
I made two batches of pesto this afternoon, enough to fill an ice cube tray. I freeze the cubes, then after they are frozen, vacuum pack them individually. The color stays beautiful, bright green and the flavor stays vibrant and fresh.  One cube is the perfect amount of pesto for a meal for Rog and me. This tray is one cube shy of full because we ate one serving  for lunch.
I think this was my best batch of pesto ever - served on pasta. sprinkled with a few pine nuts and tossed with Indigo Rose tomatoes from our garden (they have dark purple skin and twice the amount of cancer-fighting anthocyanin as other tomatoes.)

Basil Pesto

2 c. packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 c. pine nuts (or walnuts)
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2/3 c. parmesan reggiano cheese (or pecorino, asiago, or a blend)

Combine the ingredients in the blender. In the Ninja blender, I just set it on "chop" and  turned it on for about 10 seconds and it was perfect. In a less powerful blender, pulse until smooth. Or use a big mortar and pestle and grind by hand--that's  how pesto got its name!

I like to toast the nuts slightly.  You can make wonderful variations of pesto--one of my favorites is to use fresh cilantro instead of  basil, with toasted pepitas instead of pine nuts and a little dried chile and a squeeze of lime to spice it up.  Yes, maybe I will make that version tomorrow.

Bon appetit!


d2eclaylady said...

What a wonderful story you have to tell. You both should be so proud of all you've accomplished in the past 5 years! I happened upon your blog via Sandy Miller of Paine Falls blog and couldn't stop reading your story from beginning to present time. It's been inspiring in so many ways .... The potter in me is now planning a pizza oven, I've passed veggie gardening tips along to my gardener hubby and sent a link to the blog to my son and his partner, who also dream of being farmers one day. ...... Thank-you for sharing!

katy said...

I often use sunflower seeds half and half with pine nuts in my pesto.. It started as an economizing measure but I ended up liking it enough to repeat. I don't skip the pine nuts entirely as they are so good for you.

Love your blog, keep up the inspiration!