Thursday, August 30, 2007

RECIPE! Classic Pesto

A SWEET SMELL wafted through the office this afternoon. Several folks started a communal attempt to place the scent, but Briana and I suspected the same thing and kept our mouths shut. After all, one doesn't normally expect basil to barge into the office on a quiet Thursday afternoon. But basil it was, or at least it smelled like.

What business does basil have on the 33rd floor of the Hearst Tower? None that we know of, but it certainly served as inspiration. With six now-rather-large stalks of the stuff shooting up towards my kitchen ceiling, the time had clearly arrived to quit plucking off leaves one-by-one and go for some gusto--time for pesto!

This is not really much of a recipe but it's far less intensive than the exceedingly authentic Italian technique offered by Heidi over at, which I've admittedly been meaning to attempt for some time. For lack of a proper mezzaluna, I'll settle for a food processor. As for the rest of it:

Pine nuts
Basil leaves
Olive oil

I'm sorry, you wanted exact measurements? Well I don't have those. I didn't use them, so you don't have to either. A few pointers, though:

As 101Cookbooks points out, chopping is preferred to processing because it "prevents the ingredients from becoming a completely homogenized emulsion or paste." You can, however, take steps to keep your pesto from stooping to such slush even when utilizing electricity and a fast-spinning knife. First, let your basil leaves dry fully after rinsing them. Second, don't blend for too long--keep the bursts quick and as short as possible. Third, chop up the pine nuts with a little bit of garlic first, then adding the basil leaves and chopping very briefly until the leaves are just broken down. Drizzle a little olive oil, throw a bit of salt and pepper over the mixture, and quickly chop once more. Done and done.

I used thick spirals of whole wheat pasta for this, and threw in some chunks of tomato and mushrooms along with small mozzarella balls and brought the leftovers along with me to work the next day. There was even pesto enough leftover to freeze for another day. The basil, of course, is still growing strong. I'm gonna need some more inspiration.

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