One of my favorite herbs to grow each year is BASIL! I just love it… the scent and flavor is so distinctive and comforting. When I have a good crop ready in early September, I look forward to making a nice big batch of pesto! The wonderful thing about pesto, is that it stores fresh in the fridge for a decent amount of time (perhaps a week or two with a film of olive oil over the top), but that it’s also very convenient to make extra and freeze it for the off-season. I use spare ice cube trays, as I think that it’s very easy to store this way, and grabbing a cube or two is a perfect serving size to add to marinara or even to cream cheese to make a spread. I use it to make a simple dressing or marinade for pork or chicken by adding balsamic vinegar.
If you search, you will find many recipes for pesto, with the ingredients remaining more or less constant, and the proportions of each changing slightly for different tastes and preferences. This is how I make mine, but by all means, feel free to adjust to your liking! I changed it up just a little this year… I usually use only pine nuts, but this time I also added some walnuts to make up for not having as many pine nuts as I would have liked. Different olive oils will result in stronger or milder flavors, and it will depend, as well, on the strength of your garlic! While I used Parmesan cheese, you could also use some asiago, romano or a hard Swiss for variety.
This year I also made a tapenade with one batch of the pesto. I had some lovely sun-dried tomatoes to add, and then my creativity kicked in and I added a few more ingredients that resulted in a delicious concoction! If you don’t make your pesto from scratch, you can still buy pesto at the store and then “enhance” it with the remaining ingredients to have something really special. We enjoyed it with some cream cheese and Rosemary Focaccia bread by Dr. Davis, author of Wheat Belly. It was an amazing treat!
- 4C fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
- 4 cloves fresh garlic (or to taste)
- !/4C pine nuts
- 1/4 C walnuts
- 1C good olive oil
- 2/3C finely grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
- Either finely dice the garlic by hand, or pulse in the bowl of a food processor.
- Add basil a bit at a time, and process until finely chopped.
- Add nuts and process.
- Add oil a little at a time, allowing the basil mixture to incorporate the oil before adding more.
- Add grates cheese and process to combine.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
When storing pesto in the refrigerator, I prefer a glass jar, and will pour a thin film of olive oil over the surface of the pesto to prevent air from getting in and oxidizing it, causing it darken in color. It can also be frozen in ice cube trays and then stored in ziploc bags to use in the off-season.
Sun-dried Tomato, Olive Tapenade with Capers
1 batch of Basil Pesto (above recipe)
- 1 can black olives, drained and chopped medium-fine
- 1/4C diced green olives
- 1/2 C sun-dried tomatoes, finely diced
- 4 Tb capers
- olive oil as needed to make a spread
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine first four ingredients.
- Add olive oil by the tablespoon to get the tapenade to a spreading consistency.
- Season as desired.
Serve as is, or combine with cream cheese to make a savory cheese spread. Tapenade can also be stored the same way as pesto, both in the refrigerator and the freezer.