You know how each summer there is THE song of the summer, the one that puts smiles on faces, gets toes tapping, and windows rolled down while everyone sings along? Well, this summer I have THE herb of the summer growing in my garden… basil. The three or four small plants that went into the ground in late spring have grown into a mighty basil forest, extraordinarily tall and lush. We cannot keep up with it; despite our best efforts, that is an enormous amount of caprese salad to eat!
As the days grow shorter, I am only too aware of the cool weather that is sure to follow. Feeling a bit like the ant preparing for winter in Aesop’s The Grasshopper and the Ant, I’ve gone on a pesto making binge; not only preserving basil’s quintessential summer flavor at its best, but capturing a sunny moment in time. These green gems, pulled from the depths of the freezer, will bring warm memories to cold snowy nights sometime in the (not too distant) future.
Pesto is from the Italian word pestare which means to pound or crush. The English word for pestle shares the same Latin root. Traditionally, pesto is made by hand with a mortar and pestle, but in the quantities I’m dealing with the food processor is helping. No shame in that.
Some of the pesto is for enjoying now, but the majority is getting scooped into mini muffin tins, frozen, then transferred into storage containers for the freezer. The mini pesto “muffins” are just the right size to add to dishes all winter long.
And pesto isn’t just for pasta… here are some others ways to savor it.
• Potatoes- pesto and potatoes are a wonderful pair. Gently stir a spoonful of pesto into freshly boiled potatoes or mix a spoonful into mashed potatoes.
• Marinara Sauce- add pesto to your regular marinara sauce
• Dip- mix pesto into greek yogurt, crème fraiche, or sour cream for a dip
• Pizza- use pesto instead of pizza sauce on your next homemade pizza
• Sandwiches- spread pesto on your favorite crusty sandwich bread, top with sliced chicken and roasted red peppers
Those are just some of my suggestions. I’d love to hear from you… what are your favorite ways to use pesto?
*recipe adapted from Marcella Hazen
For the food processor-
2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons lightly toasted pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
For completion by hand-
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons freshly grated romano cheese
Briefly rinse basil under cold water and pat dry.
Place basil, olive oil, pine nuts, chopped garlic, and a pinch of salt into the bowl of a food processor. Process to a uniform creamy consistency.
Transfer to a bowl, and mix in the two grated cheeses by hand.
The pesto can be frozen in pre-portioned amounts to be pulled from the freezer whenever you want a taste of summer.