Friday, October 3, 2008

Pesto É Besto

Ah, Fall: season of mists, mellow fruitfulness and, this year, economic apocalypse. October invites us to slow our pace, savor the waning sunlight, and pluck the last fruit from the vine before spiraling into the Great Depression. What better time to make pesto?

Stalking The Wild Parm

Pesto is an ideal recession special: it’s shockingly cheap to make and it’s full of comforting carbohydrates. It’s fast to make and tough to mess up, and it freezes well. Now, while fresh basil is still in gardens and farmer’s markets, is the time to stock up for winter.

A Few Notes:

Yes, you absolutely have to use fresh basil. If you only have dried, make something else. You can use other fresh herbs in place of or in combination with the basil if you’re feeling frisky. In these pictures, you can see that I threw in some Thai basil along with the Italian, ‘cuz I’m all multicultural like that.

If yours is the kind of household that keeps multiple kinds of olive oil in stock, now is the time to use the good stuff. The charming and talented Fran Guinan (Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble Member, late of August: Osage County) insisted the first time I met him that I had to try Trader Joe’s Unfiltered olive oil. He was right. That stuff is the bomb. And the TJ’s on Atlantic and Court is now open, so I don’t have to brave Union Square to restock.

TJ's Unfiltered Olive Oil...Mmmmm....

I’m not the biggest pine nut fan in the world (unless we’re talking about the town in Best Of Show), so I substitute pecans and/or almonds. Almost any nut you like the flavor of will work here, though peanuts sound gross to me. Depending on how oily your nut of choice is, you may need to adjust that last pour of oil.

I loooooove garlic. If you don’t, use less. Heretic.

Pesto is the kind of recipe Cuisinarts were born to make. A blender will do in a pinch. If you don’t have either, take comfort: neither did the folks who thought this stuff up. Use a fine grater for the garlic and cheese, a stout knife for the nuts. Feel authentic and virtuous.


3 Tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1/4 cup nuts (half pecans, half almonds is my usual)
1 1/3 cups washed basil leaves (no stems)
1/4 parmesan cheese (not the green can kind, okay?)
1/2 lb pasta, cooked

The Players

What To Do With ‘Em:

1. If your cheese isn’t already grated, use the grater disk on the food processor, then a quick pulse with the regular blade. Set aside.

2. Combine in food processor garlic and 1 Tablespoon oil. Pulse about 5 seconds. Add salt, pepper, and nuts. Pulse again, about 20 seconds.

3. Add basil leaves and pulse until just mixed. Don’t overdo it. If the basil is over mixed, it gets bruised and black and unappealing.

4. Add 2 Tablespoons oil and cheese, pulse until just mixed.

5. Toss over pasta or freeze in small amounts. If you freeze it: pour a layer of oil on top to prevent freezer burn. Defrost at room temperature — don’t microwave it (cooked pesto = not so awesome).


No comments: