On Originality (Pesto Week – Monday)

One of the best things about cooking more and more is the level of comfort you have with certain dishes.  Over time, your favorites typically become embedded in your memory, so there’s no consulting of cookbooks, blogs, or pins before making dinner.  Such freedom also allows you to take your dishes in new directions, making small adjustments or substitutions depending on your mood.  This is where the real fun happens in the kitchen.  This is where original recipes are born.

table set

K asked me what to do with her overgrown basil plants this summer, and I’m afraid my answer here is anything but original.  Because my answer is make pesto!

That was also my answer when she asked what to do with her arugula.

I just really like pesto.  See #22 here.

I don’t blog about it quite as much as I used to because I blogged about it a ton back in the good old days.  My blog started in the summer, and in the summer I put pesto on everything.  We’re going to spend this week taking a trip back through memory lane, at least as far as pesto is concerned.  Starting with my recipe for homemade pesto, which I posted about one week into the life of this little blog.

Ready to get nostalgic?

Let’s go…

I ate the most delicious dinner last night.  And I’m sorry to do this to you, but you’re going to have to wait for the recipe.  Because before you can make it, you must master the art of pesto.  It is the easiest sauce to make.  Pesto is perfect for summer because at this point in the year, basil is taking over your garden (or your supermarket), and you do not have to heat a single pan to make it (okay, one).  This is my tried and true recipe, but you’ll need to experiment to find what works for you.

Pesto is another one of those dishes that has so few ingredients, quality really matters.  Real parmesan, fresh garlic, and extra virgin olive oil will make a big impact.

  • 2 C of basil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • ¼ C pine nuts (pignolis)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ C parmesan
  • zest of ½ a lemon

This recipe has a lot of ½ C of this, ½ tsp of that.  I think SJP said it best when she said, “Sometimes a girl just needs a half.”

Put your pine nuts in a skillet (I like using non-stick here) and set your burner on a medium flame.  Medium-low if you have one of those scary-industrial ovens.  I am totally jealous if you do.  I bet your kitchen is really nice.

Pine Nuts Before

Let them hang out for just a minute before you start shaking the pan, pretending like you are a rock-star chef.  Put them back on the flame, then toss them again when you feel like it.  Do this for just a few minutes until the pine nuts start turning brown, and releasing a yummy scent.  Turn off the burner.  Pat yourself on the back.

Pine Nuts After

Put the basil leaves, garlic cloves (yep, whole!), salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor.  I like my little food processor for this.  It’s easier to clean.  Pulse a couple of times to loosen everything up.  Then, add the pine nuts you toasted.  Pulse again.

Food Processor

That’s it.  Well, almost.  Stream in olive oil as you continue to blend your pesto.  When you’ve reached a consistency you can live with, add the parmesan.  Do not pulse it.  Just stir it in gently.  Because you are blending the cheese with some strong flavors, this is an instance where you can use Parmigiano Reggiano that the dear employees at Whole Foods have already grated for you.

You’re done.  You made pesto!  I bet it was easier than you thought.

I like to make mine in the morning and let it sit in the fridge throughout the day.  It lets that raw garlic flavor mellow out.

If you find yourself with lots of time and lots of basil, make a bunch of batches.  Keep it in your freezer with a thin layer of olive oil on top.  Defrost a batch when you are looking for a quick pick up to your pasta or salad.


4 thoughts on “On Originality (Pesto Week – Monday)

    • Yep, it should work just fine without the garlic. I don’t know if lemons are a concern, but I’ve been known to up the lemon zest content as well, which might be a fun tweak. xo

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