Summer is ending. For the past month, my potted basil plants have been doing their best to flower. I know that if I let them go to seed, they would die, so I’ve been pinching off the buds. However, now our nights are dipping into the 40s—too cold for these tropical annuals. Even if they don’t freeze, the chill turns the leaves black—not very appetizing. I’ve hauled the plants inside, but I can’t postpone the inevitable. It’s time to make pesto.
There’s no aroma quite like that of freshly made pesto, and that’s exactly what my kitchen smells like right now. I have two favorite pesto recipes, and I’d like to share them with you so your kitchen can smell this amazing too.
This first recipe is for basic pesto sauce—the kind you slather over pasta, stir into tomato soup, or spread on a pizza crust, either under or instead of the tomato sauce. I make mine in a food processor with a metal blade. The tedious part is picking all the leaves off the plants. (That’s why I grow the large-leaf varieties.) Once I have a pile of lovely green basil leaves, the rest takes only a couple of minutes.
Basic Yummy Pesto
- 4 cloves garlic
- ¼ C pine nuts
- 2 C lightly packed fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
- 1 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- ½ C olive oil
Put metal chopping blade in food processor. With machine running, add garlic and pine nuts and mince. Turn off machine. Add basil and cheese. Process until finely chopped. With machine running, drizzle olive oil through feed tube. (If you have a lot of basil, an average food processor holds 3 batches at one time.) Store in refrigerator for a few days or freeze. I like to freeze into ice cube trays, then put the frozen cubes into a large zip-lock bag so I can defrost a bit at a time.
In addition to the suggestions above, we also enjoy pesto mixed with ricotta cheese and baked, or poured over a block of cream cheese. Try it with crackers or French bread rounds.
This second recipe uses one of the lemon or lime basil cultivars. My favorite is Sweet Dani, a vigorous, larger-leafed lemon basil. In fact, this recipe is the primary reason I grow lemon basil in the first place. You can use regular basil too, but it won’t be quite as strong. We love it spread over poached or grilled salmon.
Pistachio Lime Pesto
- ¼ C pistachios (about 1 ounce)
- 20 fresh lemon or lime basil leaves, washed and dried
- 1 garlic clove
- ¼C butter, room temperature
- ¼C olive oil
- 1 tsp. lime juice
Process pistachios, basil and garlic clove in a food processor until finely chopped. Add butter, olive oil and lime juice and process until incorporated into mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to small bowl. Refrigerate until well chilled. Pistachio lime pesto can be prepared up to 4 days ahead. It also freezes very well. I like to freeze it into ice cube trays, then put the frozen cubes into a large zip-lock bag so I can defrost a bit at a time.
How do you like to use your basil?