October 10, 2011

Basil Pesto


I like to keep a several pots planted with herbs outside my kitchen door.  There are not huge amounts of them, but there is enough to cover me for my basic cooking and recipe needs.  I currently have a few different varieties of thyme, cilantro, Italian parsley, oregano, mint, sage, and my summertime favorite, basil.

Basil needs to be trimmed, or better yet, pinched on a regular basis to keep it growing.  You do this by pinching off the top 3-5 leaves and flowers from each stem.  During the summer, every couple of weeks, I pinch off the tops of the basil plants and make a batch of pesto.  I use some for that night's dinner and divide what remains into small containers to freeze for another time.  By the end of summer, I have a well stocked freezer for quick and easy winter meals.

This is a dairy free version.  Without the cheese, this is an incredibly healthy sauce.  Basil is not only flavorful, but good for you.  It acts as a digestive aid, a protector from free radicals, and the oils derived from it are anti-inflammatory. The walnuts are a rich source of omega-3 fat, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which is beneficial to heart health, and ellagic acid which is not only an antioxidant but has been said to help fight cancer cells.

If you like the flavor of parmesan cheese in your pesto, add it in at the end or after it has been defrosted.

Basil Pesto
2-3 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  salt and pepper
You really need a food processor for this, but it can be done in a blender.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, put the garlic and walnuts. Pulse several times to grind the ingredients together. Add the basil and pulse until just incorporated.
While the machine is running, pour in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
If you are using the pesto for pasta, heat it by adding a ladle of the the pasta water to the sauce. If you prefer something a little creamier, try adding about 1/3-1/2 cup of hot unsweetened almond milk to warm it up. Whatever you do, do not heat the sauce on the stove or in the microwave.
There is always extra ready for the freezer. I like to use gladware containers purely out of convenience. The best thing to do is freeze the remaining pesto in ice cube trays, and keep the frozen cubes in a large resealable bag.


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Categories: Dressings & Sauces, From The Garden, Kids in the Kitchen, Pasta & Risotto

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