Aug 11, 2013

Fresh Basil Pesto


A pesto is nothing but a sort of Italian chutney. Basil Pesto is authentically prepared by crushing some basil leaves, little garlic, pine nuts and some freshly grated parmesan cheese in a mortal pestle drizzled with some Olive oil until a smooth (chutney like) paste is obtained.

When we started our small backyard garden, we bought a tiny basil plant and planted it along with some Mint leaves in a herb grower pot and can you imagine, the Mint took over and killed my basil plant…hmph! So we bought another plant of Italian Basil and grew in the garden along with our tomatoes and carrots and other veggies and they all grew together happily like brothers and sisters and I now have more Basil than I want! And I'm trying out all kinds of recipes to make use of every single Basil leaf from this lovely plant.


Basil often called 'The King of Herbs' is a very nutritious and flavorful herb. Fresh basil  can be eaten raw in salads, made into a pesto to be used as a marinade or sandwich spread, used as a fresh herb on pizza's, breads, curries and can even be used in dessert preparations.

I've always wanted to try making Basil pesto at home and now the chance had come to try it out :-) Pesto can be used for various preparations like a sandwich spread, dipping sauce, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, veg/n0n-veg marinade, on omelettes  etc
Originally recipes for pesto uses pine nuts, but I didn't have any, so used walnuts instead. Some recipes call for toasting the nuts, but I didn't toast mine.


I have found several variations to pesto recipes that's made with spinach leaves, mint leaves, cilantro etc where the main ingredients are fresh greens leaves, garlic, nuts, cheese and olive oil. So its quite versatile and can be made with any green leaves, good quality nuts, cheese of choice and ofcourse Extra virgin Olive oil.

If you do not want to pound on a mortar pestle, make it easy by using a food processor or mixer grinder to combine everything. I added some crushed black pepper for some spice, but my family felt the spice was less, so you can add some green chilies to suit your spice level.



I made this pesto to my family's liking, by moderating the amount of oil, cheese and nuts used and it still came out really good, so I'm sharing the same with you all. 


Fresh Basil Pesto
Yields 1 cup of pesto

You’ll need
Fresh Basil Leaves – 3 cups , packed
Fresh Garlic cloves – 2 or 3
Pine nuts or Walnuts – 2-3 tblsp (almost ¼ cup)
Parmesan Cheese (grated or powdered) – 2 heaped tblsp  (can add upto ½ cup if preferred)
Extra virgin Olive Oil – ½ cup
Lemon Juice - 2 tblsp
Salt and freshly crushed black Pepper corns – to taste
Green Chilies – 2 or 3 (purely optional - if you prefer more spice)

Directions
1. Add all the above ingredients (except salt) into a food processor or mixer-grinder and blend it well until a smooth pesto is obtained.  (Add green chillies for a spicier version)
2. Season with salt, do a taste test and enjoy using as a marinade or pasta sauce or sandwich spread or as a dipping sauce, however you like!

Suggestions and changes I made:
1. Some recipes suggest toasting the nuts to release the oil and flavor in the nuts. Be sure the nuts are cooled to room temp, before grinding them.
2. I personally did not want to add ½ cup oil, so I added ¼ cup olive oil + ¼ cup water to make my pesto. Tasted great nevertheless.
3. My family felt the pesto I made wasn’t too spicy as I had not added green chillies, hence I’ve included them in the recipe above incase you prefer a spicier version. Or else add more crushed pepper.


My mom really loved the basil pesto. She hates the taste of raw basil in salads but this version was much more appealing to her and everyone else at home enjoyed it too. Its tasty and healthy and can be made so easily with no cooking required :-) Try it out and see for yourself.

The first thing I did with this pesto was to marinate it on some Salmon to make grilled Salmon kebabs and it was simply superb. Here's a pic of the kebabs (ready to be grilled) that I shared on my Instagram page. Coming up next here...so come back soon.

-Manju

12 comments:

  1. Love the color of the pesto, nothing beats the homemade one ;)

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  2. I love the perfect color of pesto...

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  3. grew up like brothers and sisters... lol, loved that statement! you see the advantage of staying in the states is that you can have ur own yard and your own produce, which you wouldn't have had if you were in uae... ;) never tried basil, but waiting for your list of recipes you made with it, would love to try it out someday... :)

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  4. I love Basil.. I also planted Basil this year and have been using it for cooking...Love the idea of using fresh herbs from the garden. Your plant is looking healthy and bushy. The pesto look creamy and yum!

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  5. Lucky you! Having a backyard garden is such a dream here in space constrained city of Mumbai!
    I am sure the pesto tastes great with such fresh ingredients. The colour looks so pretty and bursting green!

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  6. Delicious I love pesto and nothing like fresh basil from the backyard to make it!

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  7. Loved the colour of the pesto... and yes it indeed looks double fresh :)

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  8. Homemade pesto are my favourite, am in love with urs, very colourful pesto.

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  9. Nice to see fresh Basil leaves. I have seen only dried basil leaves. Very colorful :)n Waiting for your grilling recipes......

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  10. I can imagine the aroma of fresh basil ground in a pesto..

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