I successfully grew a lush, beautiful basil plant. I love it. I never forget to water it, and I say nice things to it while stroking it's leaves. Now before you go calling me crazy, just look at it! The lovin' obviously works.
Recently, however, my plant friend went and sprouted FLOWERS. This triggered panic and the urgent need to harvest as much as I could in case the leaves should become tough and flavourless (as was the case with my cilantro and dill).
Enter pesto. It's easy-peasy - one of those toss-it-all-in-the-food-processor recipes.
Classic pesto uses pine nuts, not walnuts, but walnuts are what I had on hand, and this was an urgent situation. Take my lead and play with the recipe - any flavourful green leaf with a bite makes gorgeous pesto. Think arugula, watercress, other herbs like mint and parsley... or even spinach, for a milder version.
You can also modify the amount of garlic, cheese and oil - there is huge variety in pesto recipes. I start with the rule of threes - 3 cups of basil, 3 cloves of garlic, 1/3 cup nuts, 1/3 cup parmigiano reggiano, 1/3 cup oil - and adjust from there. Now that I said that, I count one-two-three-four cloves of garlic in my photo..
There is no substitute for parmigiano reggiano (...not to be a food snob here but the snowy dry "parmesan" stuff in the green shaker just doesn't cut it). Authentic parmigiano reggiano is a bit on the pricey side, but a little goes a long way flavour-wise, so a chunk lasts a respectably long time. It's low moisture content means it is reluctant to host mold, too. When it's all gone, toss the rind into a simmering pot of soup - it adds lots of yummy flavour. No wasting this precious commodity.
To freeze leftover pesto, just dollop on a parchment-lined baking sheet and freeze. Transfer frozen pesto dollops to a freezer bag until ready to use. Thaw as needed in the microwave in 30 second increments.
Aren't frozen hunks of pesto pretty??
Stir it into pasta, rice, couscous, cooked vegetables, scrambled eggs, popcorn, spread it on sandwiches... the list goes on!
3 cups basil
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
1/3 cup toasted walnuts
1/3 cup olive oil
Combine basil, garlic, parmigiano reggiano, and walnuts in food processor; pulse, stirring occasionally till all basil leaves are minced. With food processor running, drizzle in olive oil. Season with salt to taste.