Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tutorial: Making basil pesto

I planted six basil plants this year.

Every year I say I'm going to plant more basil; this year, I actually did it.  And boy.....are we currently up to our ears in it!!

We love basil. We use it in so many things--one of our favorites being pesto.  In case you've never tried making your own, I thought I would show you just how easy it really is! With the help of three very cute boys*, of course.

*cute boys optional in your kitchen

When I brought in our latest load of leaves from the garden, it almost filled our entire dining room table! If I had to do all that leaf-picking myself, it would take me forever. Luckily, I have three amazing helpers--and it only took about 20 minutes.

Cameron was much happier about this process than he looks. 

The boys are young yet, but they really are very capable in the kitchen. 
Even Ethan gets a lot done all by himself!

{Stop it, Colin! Okay, I promise this is NOT child labor!}

We have a leaf pile and a 'garbage' pile...and we pickpickpick until everything is in one those piles!

I wash the basil (in several batches) in the sink....

....then run it through the salad spinner to get most of the moisture off.

I add about 4 cups of leaves to my food processor.... 
(which promptly DIED about half way through making this batch--I nearly died with it!)

....some kosher salt....

....and freshly ground pepper, to taste.

A side note here: you actually can make pesto without a food processor, just using a large kitchen knife and chopping everything well by hand. I speak from experience on this--I had to do more than half of my batch this way after my processor died. It is a lot more work, and you won't get the emulsification like you would in a processor--but the flavor is still incredible. We had some of the hand-chopped stuff that very night, on some pizza--and it was just as good! So: no food processor? No excuse! *grin*

Now, 1/2 cup of pine nuts--you can add these raw if you'd like; 
I toast mine in a dry pan for a couple of minutes, to bring out the flavor!

And 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese.

Next? Garlic.
Ahhhhh.  Garlic.

Another side note: I grew garlic for the very first time in my garden this year, and it could not have been easier. You start garlic in the fall--so if you'd like to grow your own, start thinking about it now! You simply purchase garlic (either online, which is where I got mine, or some even say in the grocery store bulk bin--but I have a friend who has not had great success with that) and divide up the bulb into cloves. You plant the cloves a couple of inches into the ground, and the following July/August, each clove will have turned into a whole head!! It is incredible, really--and hardly takes up any space in the ground. I am so glad I tried it last year and will never not grow it again! One of the bonuses--I will take 3 or 4 heads that I grew this year, dry them out, and plant them again...so it's a gift that keeps on giving! *grin*

I use about 2-4 cloves for a batch this size, depending on how big they are.
The nice thing is, the garlic doesn't need to be chopped. Just lay it down on a cutting board...

....lay your knife--blade side facing away from you--across the top of it....

...and give it a quick but sturdy whack with your fist. 
As Rachael Ray says, you accomplish your job and let out some frustration!

You end up with a clove that is slightly mushed (technical term)....

...and whose skin just peels right off.
As Colin would say: easy peasy, lemon squeezie!
{Please take note of the meticulous manicure. That's just how I roll.}

Once you have all those goodies in your processor, start pulsing.

A little more....

A little more....


Right about here. See? It's not all ground to pieces, which is what you want.

Now, start a thin stream of extra virgin olive oil into the hopper, and turn the processor to on.

About 3/4 cup of olive oil and 15/20 seconds later, you'll have this! Perfect.

Like I said, I make a bunch at a time--you can see the pile of leaves still on my counter 
behind the bowl--so I pour each batch from my processor into a giant bowl. 

Batch by batch, I combine it all; then, at the end, I scoop it into jars and freeze.

You want to cover your pesto with a thin layer (maybe 1/4 inch thick) of olive oil before freezing it--it will help protect against freezer burn.  Make sure you use a proper freezable jar (the freezable canning jars have straight sides, unlike your normal curve-top ones) and leave about an inch headspace in the jar for expansion.

That's it! Easy and delicious!


Amanda Terry said...

Sounds and looks delicious, Devin!! I am anxious to plant basil next year!

Kim in NJ said...

First, I have NEVER seen a package of pine nuts that large!

Secondly, the pesto looks delish. How many plants did you plant to get so much? Now that I'm thinking of it, I'm in such awe of your fresh produce, would you mind sharing pics of your garden?

My zucchini and yellow squash are battling fungus and I'm thinking of pulling them all. We're down to one cucumber plant after planting four. Luckily, the tomato plants are looking good and delivering the goods. Ah, Jersey tomatoes :)