Are you enjoying the harvest from your garden? We made a batch of pesto from a bunch of fresh basil recently, and I thought you might like the recipe. Instead of the traditional pine nuts, I use almonds in our pesto (more about this below). I like to toast them in the oven to bring out their flavor.
I also like to add a little fresh mint to the pesto, which gives the pesto an aromatic, complex flavor. You can omit the mint it you don’t have it.
Here’s the easy recipe:
Basil Pesto Recipe
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds
- 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup fresh packed mint leaves (optional)
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the almonds in the prepared pan and toast for about 8 to 10 minutes, watching carefully and stirring several times, until golden brown.
Cool to room temperature. Combine the almonds, basil leaves, optional mint leaves, and garlic in a food processor.
Process until the basil and mint are finely chopped. Measure out the olive oil in a spouted measuring cup.
Drizzle in the olive oil with the food processor running, until it is fully incorporated and the pesto is creamy. Add the Parmesan cheese and process briefly, just until combined. Scrape down the sides and process for a few seconds longer.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
You can add pesto to pasta, chicken, salad dressing, creamy sauces, pizza, grilled foods, stirred in mashed potatoes, in dips, over a steak, spread on garlic bread, with scrambled eggs, and in dozens of other recipes.
We freeze the pesto in smaller portions. I prefer to freeze foods in parchment paper so they don’t absorb any chemicals from plastic. To freeze pesto, I fold a piece of parchment paper in half, and then fold in the sides to make a pocket:
Add the pesto sauce, flatten it out a bit for quicker thawing and tuck the packet in a freezer bag. (I reuse our freezer bags endlessly, for storage purposes only.) At this point, your pesto will look remarkably like a baggie of pot. Or am I just seeing it that way because I live in Colorado?
You can freeze the pesto for up to 6 months. To thaw it, just let it sit on the counter for 30 minutes or so while you’re preparing dinner. By freezing it in a thin, flat piece you can easily break off a chunk if you want to add a little bit to a soup or pasta sauce. In the middle of winter, you’ll be so glad you preserved the summertime flavor of fresh basil.
So why do I prefer toasted almonds in my pesto instead of pine nuts? Perhaps you’d like to read my wicked bad tale about the time I came down with a condition called Pine Mouth from eating three tiny counterfeit nuts.
The short version of my painful lesson learned: always buy locally-grown pine nuts, never cheap imports.
Have you been enjoying foods from your garden this month? I’d love to hear what you’re harvesting, cooking and preserving.
Photos: thebittenword.com, Lori L. Stalterl, Jaymis Loveday, Craig Dugas.
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