Basil pesto

A girl at my work, Christen, inspired this post. She and her boyfriend do their best to eat healthily, in between midnight pizzas (hey, no judgement here, our household has seen 3:45am Katz’s pastrami sandwiches). Lately they have been making basil pesto on top of chicken. A lot. So I though I’d give it a go – I love pesto, I’ve got a food processor, what a great idea! She gave me her recipe, and some tips, some after I made my batch, some before.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese (see Cook’s Note)

Directions

Combine the basil, garlic, and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

If using immediately, add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese. If freezing, transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw and stir in cheese.

From the Food Network: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/basil-pesto-recipe2/index.html

You’re probably thinking “2 cups of basil!?!”. Don’t worry, it’s readily available at most grocers. And if you generally rely on a solitary basil plant, Whole Foods sells the plants for about $2 (maybe $3, heck, I’d pay $4 for a plant if I knew I wouldn’t let it die), so you could just get a second plant to nurture, you green thumb you. The bunch of basil goes for about $3 (New York dollars, not sure what it is elsewhere… most likely cheaper).

The next thing you will think, after you’ve put the basil in your cart and have made it to the nuts section, is why in God’s name would I buy a whole container of pine nuts for $30?!? I’m just going to go the the bulk section – I only need 1/4 cup! You’ll do the same, and think to yourself, hey, I need way less than a pound, so at $29.99/lb, I’ll be fine. So, it being 7:05pm at Whole Foods, you’re being jostled by the indie couple getting all their whole grains to the right and the 30-something lady picking out dried fruit to your left, and trying not to get run over by the cart dudes pushing the full train of carts to the front of the store behind you, you measure out what looks to be about 1/4 cup. Victoriously walking away, you congratulate yourself on saving some serious dough, outsmarting those marketers who have tried to convince you to buy a whole container for $30. Then you will get to the checkout, and your tiny portion of pine nuts will ring up to be $6.60!! What?!?! Are pine nuts endangered? Why are they so freaking expensive!?! After I made my pesto, I asked Christen how she could afford a pesto habit, what with pine nuts on par with the price of gold. This is where she gave me the magical tip!!! She uses ALMONDS. Or any nuts she has on hand. Genius! Now, I haven’t tried her tip yet, but in theory, it makes total sense. Almonds are more common than flannel wearing hipsters in Brooklyn!! And the nuts in pesto aren’t the outstanding flavor (that I’m currently aware of, I may be wrong), but they provide more of a texture. Somebody try it and report back – or I guess I could do it and update.

In terms of the actual production process – it’s easy as pie. Well, it’s easier than pie. Tear the basil leaves off the stems, rinse. Cut up 2 cloves of garlic into chunks, so the food processor gets them a bit more evenly. I’ve mentioned before that I love garlic, so I picked two large cloves. Cut back according to your own tastes.

Put in food processor, and pulse (don’t just turn it on, you do want to pulse, to chop it).

I added about 1/2 cup of olive oil all at once, and pulsed until smooth. The recipe tells you to season with salt and pepper – it needs pepper, but easy on the salt, because the pecorino takes care of that saltiness. I left the mixture in the food processor when I added the cheese, and then while the processor was running, slowly added more olive oil so it would mix in. Christen said she uses less olive oil than the recipe calls for – I would say I did the same, although I’ve noticed that the left overs are a bit dry after it’s been in the ‘fridge a couple of days.
This was so simple, and it’s provided me with pesto for days! I am a glutton for pasta, so as could you see in the first photo, I put the pesto on shells and tossed in a couple grape tomatoes. I’ve also used it to add some kick to the new Domino’s artisan pizza’s (quite delicious on its own, by the way, but still, as my mother suggested, an oxymoron), some crackers, or just a spoon. I think putting it on chicken would be really great too, but that would require cooking chicken. And sometimes that seems like it’s a lot of work. Especially when you have crackers.
Oh, and if you know why pine nuts cost so much, please advise. Even if you google it for me. http://lmgtfy.com/
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2 thoughts on “Basil pesto

  1. you are absolutely hilarious!! you should write for ny mag!!!

    also a hint of lemon juice cuts the garlic if you ever over do it..just incase šŸ™‚

    sincerely,
    someone who is as Italian as the olive garden šŸ˜‰

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