There are so many things I love about summer: rhubarb (saw some in the market today), the warm weather, doing things outside (or just being outside), and pesto. I love making pesto and I realized this morning that I really miss it. I haven’t made any for a few years because my old kitchen wasn’t conducive to cooking and we didn’t have the freezer space for it. While eating dinner I resolved to make a big batch or two once I saw basil make an appearance at the market. What made me reminisce? Saturday evening I wanted a nice quick and easy dinner for myself. I pulled out some corn rotini, plain yogurt, and pesto and set to work. I really like cooking with corn pasta as it behaves much like regular pasta in timing and texture.
I looked at my jar of store bought pesto and read the ingredients. I wasn’t too impressed. I’ve been having a hard time finding a good pesto; one that doesn’t contain a dozen ingredients or preservatives. Honestly, why are there potatoes in pesto?! On one shopping trip I forgot to go to one of the little Italian shops so I had to make do with the big name brand.
Dinner was complete and tasted pretty decent, a touch too salty (darn pesto), but it’ll do. Often, the products you buy in the jar just don’t compare to the ones you make from scratch. As I ate my creamy pesto pasta I remembered a time making pesto with a friend of mine, who sadly has moved to Kingston.
Many, many years ago when my dear friend had learnt I made my own pesto decided to she wanted to learn how. Making pesto is not rocket science, but she wanted to have a fun girls’ day together; a Pesto Party she called it. We set a date and the day before I picked up a grocery bag of basil (stems and all), parmesan cheese, garlic, and a big bag of pine nuts. My friend knows the way to my heart and came prepared with a big bottle of cider and a stick or two of French bread. We set to work washing all the basil leaves (thankfully I now have a salad spinner to make this process much easier) and toasting the pine nuts. Remembering that day brings a smile to my face. The whirling sound of the food processor rings through my ears. We sampled every batch to make sure it was worthy of putting into jars. And it was. Then we got adventurous; it may have been the cider or just plain enjoying ourselves. We began adjusting the garlic (and made some potent batches) and adding lemon juice (a nice fresh burst) and kept going. When we finished there were jars and jars of pesto stacked on the counter and we were stuffed full of bread, cheese, and pesto. We hadn’t realized how much we had eaten until our other halfs came in and were hit by the smell of garlic (they like garlic, just not that much). It took about two days for our body to expel the aroma of garlic. I treated it like a game at the grocery store, to see how long it would take a person to move away from me, and how quickly they moved.
Hmmmm, think it’s time for another Pesto Party.
This recipe comes from The Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. I make it as is then adjust the garlic depending on my mood. Try it with a tbs or two of lemon juice.
10 mins; makes 1 cup
3 packed cups fresh basil leaves
3-4 cloves garlic
½ cup toasted pine nuts
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
salt & pepper to taste
Place basil & garlic in a food processor & purée. Add nuts & purée until finely ground. Drizzle in oil. When it is a paste, stir in parmesan. Season with salt & pepper.