pesto: traditional and purple

August 23, 2011 at 8:13 am Leave a comment

Basil grows fantastically well in New Jersey.  Almost every farm stand has it in abundance.  One of my favorite places to pick some up is at Griggstown Farm Market just outside of Princeton, NJ.  Their basil is fresh, flavorful and has a beautiful aroma.  In my opinion, basil has the absolute best aroma of all of the herbs.  I just love smelling it as it circulates the air in my car on the way home!

Basil is very versatile and can be used in many dishes, however pick dude LOVES pesto right out of the jar!  So every year I make a bunch to satisfy his cravings now and freeze enough to get him through the winter.  I made 5 different styles this year and cooked up some great dishes with them!  This week, I will share them all!

Green basil is most traditional, but you can also buy spicy basil, purple basil and thai basil.  I chose traditional green (at the top of the plate in the above image) and purple (at the bottom) for this round of pesto making.   I used the same recipe for both.

Pesto recipes are very forgiving.  You can play around and still end up with a great tasting product in the end.  I usually start with this recipe and tweak and taste as I go.

Traditional Pesto

1 cup walnuts (we use walnuts because they are less expensive than pine nuts, which is the “traditional” nut for pesto)
4 cloves of garlic (we love garlic so we use 4 cloves for a strong garlic flavor), 2 cloves is the average
3 cups of tightly packed basil (you can really get creative here.  You can substitute the basil with cilantro, parsley, even arugula or do a mix!)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (you can also use pecorino romano, or a blend of the two)
1/4 teaspoon pepper (we don’t use salt, we feel there is enough of it in the cheese)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

Instructions:

In a dry pan, roast whole walnuts on medium heat on the stove top for a few minutes to release the oils in the nuts.  It provides a bolder flavor.  Toss them often to prevent burning and take off the stove and put onto a paper towel to cool as soon as you smell the aroma of the walnut oil.

Once cooled, add the walnuts to the food processor with your garlic.  Process until it resembles a paste.  Now add your basil (or other herbs) and mix.  It will start to form a ball that rolls around the machine.  Add your cheese and pepper and mix slightly.  Give a taste and make adjustments as needed.

Now drizzle in your EVOO slowly until the ball goes away and it resembles a more uniform paste.  You can always add more EVOO if needed.  Give a taste, adjust if needed, and that is it!  So simple and so delicious!

On the left is the purple basil and green basil on the right.  The green pesto is your traditional pesto in flavor.  The purple pesto gives it a milder basil flavor that has some nuttiness in the background.  It is a softer basil pesto.

The recipe makes enough to fill one 1/2 pint canning jar and to freeze some.  I find the best way to freeze pesto is in ice cube trays.  Just put the pesto in each cavity and pop in the freezer for 1/2 day.  Then pop them out with the help of a butter knife and freeze in storage containers or freezer bags.  This makes it so much easier to use in the future in these individual sizes.

You will see I also made some sun-dried tomato pesto this day that I froze.  That will be the next post!

worth the pick?

pick chick says: Totally worth it!  I make this pick at least 4 times during the season.  I make and freeze as much pesto as possible because it is so versatile and yummy.  Basil, I heart your lushish flavor and addictive aroma!

pick dude says: I love the full basil flavor of traditional pesto. This one was made with walnuts. If you aren’t a pesto junkie like me, you’ll never notice the difference. It’s very strong tasting and smelling and which I think makes pesto, pesto! I love the dark, rich green color and the fragrance of the basil. That being said, it differs from the pesto made with pignoli (aka pine nuts) in smoothness. The walnuts seem to have less fat and therefore it’s not as creamy-smooth as one made with pignoli.  However, I just love pesto, it is one of my favorites and is a great pick!

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