Friday, June 27, 2008
A mountain of fresh basil
Summer is here and I finally get to enjoy one of my favorite herbs in abundance. To me, basil tastes like summer and I love to eat it a hundred different ways. From a last minute addition to a fresh tomato sauce, to using it as a salad green, to grabbing a leaf out of the garden, wrapping it around a cherry tomato and popping it in your mouth, basil is good anytime. Like most people, the first thing I think of when I have a pile of it is basil pesto. Pesto is, of course, great over pasta as a quick summer meal but when I do this I like to deconstruct the pesto. I simply pound the basil in a mortar with salt (you could do this in a food processor but I like a more rustic texture and the mortar is easier to wash) and then add olive oil and maybe a liile lemon juice. The toasted pine nuts, garlic and cheese will be added to the pasta separately.
I do this for two reasons. First, I like the separation of flavors and textures you get, and second, I like to freeze some extra for when I need a bit of summer in the colder months. I don't like the idea of freezing garlic or cheese, the garlic seems to get bitter and the texture of the cheese changes. It's only a little bit of work to turn this frozen mixture into a fresher tasting pesto by adding the other ingredients when you plan to use it.
All you need to do is toss your cooked pasta with the basil mixture, add some finely minced garlic, toasted pine nuts and some good italian cheese shaved with a vegetable peeler (in this case Parmigiano Reggiano and Locatelli Romano). Quick, simple and delicious.
Pesto is named for the mortar and pestle used to make it. Remember that next time your eyeing your food processor