According to Google, basil is the new superfood. It’s an antioxidant and fights cancer and is an anti-inflamitory and reduces blood pressure and reduces blood sugar and battles belly fat! Maybe.
One thing I can personally verify is that it is delicious. It tastes like summer. A few leaves on a sandwhich instead of or in addition to lettuce, chopped and sprinkled on pizza or tomatoes, or made into pesto, the yummiest of all spreads/toppings, mmmmm.
If you’ve never made pesto, now’s your chance. Here’s how I do it. Note, I’ve included the Cook’s Illustrated measurements for reference, but I don’t measure anything. I do follow the Cook’s Illustrated tips of toasting the garlic cloves (in skin) and bruising the basil leaves before chucking them in the food processor, but otherwise just fly by the seat of my pants.
Step 1: Raid the neighbors’ garden for basil. Get lots and lots and lots. If you’re going to dirty the food processor, you may as well make a big batch. Cooks Illustrated’s basic recipe wants 4 cups of loose baisl to make 3/4 cup of pesto, that’s enough to dress 1 pound of pasta. One meal’s worth is just not enough for the effort, IMO.
Step 2: Pluck the leaves from the stems and wash and dry them well.
Step 3: Put the dry leaves in a ziplock and squeeze out all the air. Then take out all your aggression and beat the bejesus out of the bagged basil with a rolling pin or meat tenderizer.
Step 4 (optional): Burn some pine nuts over medium heat while while taking pictures of basil. Throw away the burnt nuts or your pesto will taste burnt. Ask me how I know this.
Step 4a: Lightly toast some pine nuts over medium heat while stirring regularly. CI suggests 2 TBSP chopped. I toss way more in whole.
Step 5: Toast some garlic cloves still in their skin in the same dry pan you used to toast the pine nuts for 5 minutes or so, until they are fragrant. Remove from heat, peel and chop. CI says 2 cloves. As you may notice in the pic, I use a few more than 2.
Step 6: Chuck the beaten basil, pine nuts, chopped garlic, some grated parmesan cheese (1/2 cup per CI) and a little salt (CI: 1/4 tsp) in a food processor, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil (CI: 3 TBSP) and pulse away. Taste test. Add more garlic, salt and/or cheese as needed and blend again. Add more oil to get to the consistency you want.
I make my pesto quite dry and coat the surface with olive oil after jarring it. The layer of oil protects the pesto from air, which would turn it all brown and less pretty. So, the pesto loosens up as you scoop it out with the extra oil. I also like to put the extra pine nuts on top, because I can.