Pesto, generic

Pesto, which most of us know as a saucy mix of basil, garlic, and oil, tossed with pasta, is actually a generic term for things made by pounding.  It is traditionally made with a mortar and pestle, at least in Italy.  It is far easier in a food processor or blender.  Pesto is an incredibly versatile vehicle for using up produce at the height of freshness.  I’ll give you a generic basil recipe with some rough proportions, but it can be adjusted to taste with a free hand and ingredients are limited only by your imagination.  Basically, you need something bright and fresh, something nutty, something salty, and something oily.  (And as a side note, you’re not far off from hummus with this recipe, which also has infinite variations involving beans and seasoning.)

Generic Basil Pesto

3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
2 cups washed and dried basil
salt and pepper
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated hard cheese (pecorino romano, parmesan, italic)

Chop the garlic and pine nuts in the food processor.  Add the basil and pulse until a thick paste forms.  Season and add the oil while the food processor runs.  If you are making a dip or spread, add less oil.  If you’re tossing it with pasta, add a little more.  Lastly, stir in the cheese.  This will keep a week in the fridge (longer in the freezer) if you put a thin layer of olive oil on top to seal it in.

Alternatives:
– try cilantro, parsley, sorrel, spinach, or arugula as a partial or full substitute for the basil
– create a red pesto from sun dried tomatoes or roasted red peppers
– try almonds, cashews, walnuts, or beans as substitutes for the pine nuts
– cilantro, garlic, edamame beans, a little ginger, and a little sesame oil to replace some of the olive oil (cheese isn’t necessary for this one)
– cilantro, garlic, chipotle chile, and pepitas (pumpkin seeds) — fantastic in tacos, especially with a little tomatillo included
– scapes (coming soon), green garlic or green onions in place of most of the basil and garlic

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