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Pesto Party Anyone?

Basil Bed Before Harvest

We had a party…a “Pesto Party” …and it was a chopping, blending and pulsing success. Our Edible Garden raised basil beds yielded some of the most beautiful plants we’ve ever seen. And, with a new drip irrigation system going in on Tuesday, all the plants had to be cut back rather severely. It was time to rally the troops and make good use of our harvest.

Two “favored” recipes, slightly adapted, served as the basis for our pesto making adventure. Each participant was encouraged to personalize their recipe. While some chose to stay with tradition, others brought an assortment of ingredients including everything from walnuts and pecans to a yeast substitute for the Parmesan cheese. Our garden, of course, provided the basil – three different varieties to be exact: Cardinal (cinnamon/clove flavor with hints of anise), Eleonora (somewhat spicier flavor than traditional pesto types) and Persian (a distinctive aroma, both lemony and spice like).

Once the food processors began their whirring magic, the next important decision was chunky or smooth. Those in favor of a smoother texture watched closely as more olive oil was slowly drizzled into the mix. If your twist happened to be chunky, only a few short pulses and it was done. More salt or lemon juice, each person had to make that call, as well.

Amidst all the chatter and finger licking swipes, it was hilariously entertaining to see each batch being scooped out of the processors. Varying shades of green, silky smooth texture or visibly chunky little pieces of spinach and nuts didn’t matter. Each jar was filled with a pesto that yielded its own distinct personality. And, our chefs were thrilled to take home over 30 jars of garden-fresh pesto for their personal enjoyment or to share with family and friends.

*If you have basil that’s ready for harvesting, try one of our favorite recipes included below.

Pesto After Basil Harvest

Spinach Basil Pesto

Ingredients

1 ½ cups baby spinach leaves

¾ cup fresh basil leaves

½ cup toasted pine nuts

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

½ teaspoon lemon zest

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions

Blend the spinach, basil, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice, lemon zest, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a food processor until nearly smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary.  Drizzle the remaining olive oil into the mixture while processing until smooth.

Yield:  24 servings

Classic Pesto

Ingredients:

3 large cloves garlic

3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves

½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

½ cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Place the basil leaves in a food processor and pulse until half-way chopped.  Add the pine nuts and garlic.  Continue pulsing.  Add the cheese, salt and pepper.  Through the pouring spout, with the processor on, drizzle the olive oil into the basil mixture.  Blend just until incorporated but not completely smooth.  A little texture is best.

Yield:  About 3 cups

Linda Alexander

 

 

 

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