Friday, June 22, 2007

Basil Pesto

My father has an enormous garden that includes close to 30 fruit trees, and every conceivable herb. During my childhood we grew beans and carrots, lettuces, peppers, tomatoes, squashes, corn and artichokes. We grew watermelons, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries... but our most important crop of the summer season was always the basil.

Every summer my mother, father and I would engage in one long evening of picking, cleaning, toasting, blending, and freezing the basil into often more than 300 servings of pesto. We kept this stash in the freezer year round, and would pull out a foil-wrapped cube to defrost whenever we were at a loss for dinner plans. Pesto was a staple in my lunchbox all through high school, and in college, my parents would ship me packages of it, along with canned pears, dried apples, and homemade cookies.

This is my family's recipe for pesto. It's simple and makes approximately 12 servings, and is wonderful fresh or frozen. We used to freeze it in ice cube trays but found it tricky to get out; now my parents use a baking pan and cut the frozen mass into servings. I find it easiest to freeze it in muffin tins, with paper liners. Each muffin is about two servings, and I keep them frozen in Ziploc bags.

2 1/2 C fresh basil leaves (make sure not to include the flowers or stems- they make it bitter)
6 garlic cloves
1 C shelled pinenute, toasted
1 C Parmesan cheese
1/4 C Romano cheese
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 C olive oil

Grind the pinenuts and garlic together in a food processor. Add basil leaves and grind well. Blend in the cheeses and nutmeg. Add olive oil slowly through the tube of the processor, while running, to emulsify. Only use as much as necessary- you may not use the whole cup.

Use fresh, or freeze in muffin tins with liners overnight. Remove from tins and store in Ziploc bags in the freezer. This should make about 6 muffins-worth, or 12 servings.

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