Friday, July 11, 2008
Is there anything more fragrant than fresh basil? It's so simple to grow and 6 plants will provide you with enough pesto to get you through the summer and then some. A few years back Larry put some window boxes on the inside of the rails on our kitchen porch so we didn't have to sacrifice any flowers in the outer boxes. The first year I planted basil, cilantro, rosemary, and mint, but I found that I really used the basil far more than the other herbs so now we just plant basil. Today I picked my first harvest and made a double batch of pesto. I'll place what's left over in an ice cube tray and when it freezes, pop them out into a freezer bag. I use these cubes to flavor chicken dishes or salad dressings. The next batch I make I'll freeze in a bigger container for use in pesto salads or a pasta dish like the one we had for dinner tonight. You can make pesto in a blender, but I prefer making it in my food processor. You can really go artisanal and make it with a mortar and pestle, but that takes way too much effort for me.
Pesto - Yields 1 cup
2 small garlic cloves
1/2 cup pignoli nuts (toasted is best!)
2 cups fresh basil
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated cheese (Pecorino or Parmesan or Locatelli)
With the motor of the food processer running, drop garlic into the bowl and finely chop. Stop the motor and add the pignoli, basil, and salt, then process until chopped. With motor running, add the oil, stopping to scrape down the sides. Transfer pesto to a small bowl and stir in the grated cheese. Chill until ready to use. Leftovers freeze beautifully.
For dinner, I used a package of chicken pesto Romano sausages. I sliced each sausage into eighths, then sauteed them in a nonstick pan until nicely browned. Meanwhile, I prepared a pound of rigatoni. After draining the pasta, I tossed it with about half the pesto (1/2 cup) and topped each portion with some sausage. The leftover pasta will be delicious served as a cold pasta salad and the leftover chicken sausage will make a good panini with some roasted red peppers and provolone.