Presto Pesto

August 12, 2010

Quick! I say summer vegetable garden, you say….

Well, I hope you said basil because everyone craves it during the summer for mixing into salads or for making the ever popular Caprese salad with lush tasting garden fresh tomatoes, creamy and cool fresh mozzarella cheese and peppery basil!

But, if you are a serious basil lover, then the question is what to do with it all. My plants are looking like compact thick bushes right now because it has been so hot. I have been harvesting it little by little and using it mostly fresh and in tomato sauce. Now I am getting really serious; it is time. Time to make pesto!

Over the years I have tried to adapt and change how I make it, and I want to share some ideas with you.

First, start by harvesting the smallest leaves. They have the best flavor. Next, do not wash the leaves. Just wipe them with a damp cloth because limp leaves will never dry right and the pesto will be too watery. Third, most recipes have you adding the leaves with all the other ingredients and pulsing them to a paste in a food processor. Instead, add the leaves last. This will cause minimal bruising and help them retain their green color longer.

So here is my late summer gift to you: A great recipe for Presto Pesto. Use it on pasta, over pizza, as a sandwich spread or mixed into cooked vegetables or simmering soups and sauces. You can double or triple the basic recipe to make more. And remember a little goes a long way.

Presto Pesto

Makes One 5 ounce jar

1 large clove garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts or walnuts
2 cups packed fresh, stemmed basil leaves wipe with a damp cloth
1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Place the garlic, salt and pine nuts or walnuts in a bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a couple of times to mince the garlic. Add the basil and pulse two times. Pour the olive oil through the feed tube and pulse until a sauce like texture is obtained. If it seems too thick, add a little bit more olive oil.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the cheese. Taste for salt. If you want more, add it.

Transfer the pesto to a jar leaving about 1/4 inch space at the top. Top off the jar with a layer of olive oil to seal out any air. Air causes the pesto to turn brown quickly. Cap and store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature and use as needed. Always smooth out the remaining pesto in the jar and re-top with olive oil. Refrigerate any remaining pesto.

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