As summer fades into fall, I'm thinking a lot about savoring these last few days of warm weather. The weekend promises to be hot here; it's already in the high eighties. So in the cool of morning, before it gets hot enough that all we can do is swim and sip icy drinks, I made pesto -- a big batch so that when winter comes and those long, cold days set in, I'll be able to pull a few jars out of the freezer and be reminded of the heat and the peppery basil scent of summer.
I don't follow a recipe when I make this but today I tried to pay attention so that I could pass some concrete measurements along. So use this as a guideline and adjust to your taste, adding or subtracting garlic and salt or making substitutions for the nuts and basil. Makes about 3 cups.
3/4 cup toasted pine nuts*
6 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
12 cups basil leaves**
1/2 cup olive oil
1) Grind pine nuts, garlic and salt together in a food processor or blender until relatively smooth -- you should have a paste with a consistency a bit like peanut butter.
2) Add basil a handful or two at a time, pulse to chop finely after each addition.
3) With the motor running, gradually pour in olive oil and blend until the pesto is creamy. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
You can freeze your pesto in small canning jars, ziploc bags or other containers. I like to freeze some in ice cube trays for those times when you just want to add a tablespoon or two to flavor a soup or other dish. If you plan to use the pesto fresh, float a tablespoon or two of olive oil over the top of your pesto to keep it from discoloring and store in the fridge.
*Pine nuts are traditional but you can substitute all or a portion for cashews, walnuts, or pepitas.
**Try making pesto with other greens or herbs: arugula, spinach, chard, cilantro, parsley or carrot, radish or beet greens. Bear in mind that beet greens will turn your pasta a bit pink, however; kids may like this or they may think it's disgusting -- you've been warned.