Basil Pesto–Not Just For Pasta
On Friday night I was craving pesto. Maybe it’s out of anticipation of having lots of basil in my summer garden. I don’t usually eat pesto in the winter as I try to eat as seasonally as possible and basil prefers the heat. I usually harvest all of my basil at the end of the fall to make lots of pesto and I freeze it. Sadly didn’t do this last fall so I have not been eating much pesto.
I splurged at Central Market and bought fresh basil. By the way, if you live in Austin, Central Market is the best place (besides the farmers’ mkt) to buy fresh herbs. They are less expensive than all other stores; at Central Market, most herb bunches are $1.50 each (and many times grown in TX), compared to the herbs sold in the little plastic containers at other grocery stores for $2.99+. I’ve noticed that many times the herbs sold in these little plastic containers are not fresh 😦
Of course, the cheapest herbs come from your own garden. For example, fearing I wasn’t going to have enough basil (I already planted 3 basil plants 6 weeks ago!), I snagged a forth plant in a 6-inch pot while at Central Market for about $4. This plant will keep growing, giving me basil and the cost will be minimal, compared to having to buy fresh herbs each time I want to cook with them. If you are debating starting a garden, I highly recommend starting with herbs; most herbs are easy to care for and you get a quick return on your investment!
So, on to the pesto recipe. There are lots of pesto recipes. In fact, you can really use any sort of green to make pesto–cilantro, parsley, arugula, basil–it all depends on your taste and perhaps what you have available. Feel free to also steer away from the traditional (and pretty costly) pine nuts–try almonds, walnuts or TX pecans.
Here is the recipe I used (from the forthcoming The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre cookbook):
- 1/2 C nuts
- 1/4 C grated parmesan cheese
- 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 C packed basil leaves, fresh
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 – 1 C olive oil (depending on how thick you want the pesto to be)
- Pinch of salt (optional)
- Throw all of the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.
As you can see in my picture below, I served the pesto on top of the left-over roasted fingerling potatoes from the day before and two hard-boiled eggs (from my hens, of course). The pesto was rich, the potatoes dense and the eggs filling. A perfect end of week, quick meal!