The Many Faces of Pesto

It’s amazing how quickly you forget the bounty of your summer garden in the middle of January.  That is until you open your freezer to find a stack of frozen containers of green gold; the pesto you made in August and squirreled away for just such a time.  We use our pesto as a spread for bruschetta, a sauce for pasta or a delicious and easy topping for sauteed shrimp.  The shrimp is a quick and easy “wow” dish for any dinner party.  Throw in a bottle of white Bordeaux and you have a feast fit for a king.

We were lucky enough to find “The Herbal Pantry” by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead at our local used book store.  Filled with wonderful recipes, it allowed us to take advantage of the abundance of herbs from the summer garden, including our three varieties of basil.  We started with the recipe for basil pesto on page 107 and went from there.

Here’s how we created our pesto, a winter green goodness:

2 cups fresh basil (a couple of varieties give a more complex flavor to the pesto)
1 cup parsley leaves
1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil (use to taste)
1/2 cup of walnuts (the traditional recipe calls for pine nuts)
4 clove of garlic (small) or 2 cloves of garlic (large); we also tried the recipe with garlic scapes which worked well
3/4 to 1 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago (we used Asiago in some and Parmesan in others)
2 tablespoons soft butter
Salt to taste

 

After washing the fresh herbs and picking the leaves from the stems, we placed all of the items except the cheese and butter in our food processor.  Puree the items to a consistency that allows the ingredients to be spread on bread or act as a sauce.  Place in a large bowl and slowly add the softened butter and cheese. And voila–you have pesto.

Of course, you will eat some of the pesto immediately.  So have some good french bread available when making the recipe.  If you are going to freeze the pesto, place in small, single-use containers.  Although delicious, pesto is best used in small quantities when cooking and can be thinned with quality olive oil.

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