Basil Pecan Pesto
The best way to use basil is to avoid cooking it too much. If adding it to pasta, toss it in while the pasta is still hot, but not still cooking, so the heat can release some flavour from the basil, but is not hot enough to kill the basil completely. Same goes for pizza, if making pizza with basil I suggest placing the basil on the pizza just as it comes out of the oven so it gets a little heat but not too much.
If you have an over abundance of fresh basil, a great way to use it is to make some pesto. As I just got some lovely organic basil from my local temple farmer’s stand I thought there was no better use of it than to make some pesto. Traditionally pesto is made with basil, pine nuts and garlic, but for today’s recipe we are going to mix it up a bit and make it with pecans and no garlic.
I have tried making pesto with walnuts, cashews and pine nuts and all were exceptionally yummy, with slightly different flavours due to the different nuts. It is important to slightly roast your nuts to bring out the flavour and let them cool before adding them to the pesto. This pesto can keep in your refrigerator for about a week with plastic wrap covering the surface. Pesto can also be frozen in ice cube trays, and then transferred to freezer bags when solid, to be thawed at a later date.
1 cup pecans
2 packed cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
1/4 teaspoon hing
1. Dry roast the pecans in a skillet on low heat, shaking the pan to turn the nuts often. This should take about 10 minutes, or until the nuts become fragrant and lightly browned. Set aside to cool. (You can also roast the nuts in the oven by coating them in light oil and spreading them on a pan, then baking them at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes. Be sure to turn them a few times and take them out as soon as they start to get lightly browned.)
2. Remove the basil leaves from the stems, as this could lead to a rough texture of your basil. Wash and dry the leaves, making sure to get most of the water off the leaves.
3. Add all ingredients into a food processor or blender and blend until somewhat smooth. If using a food processor, you might add the oil about half way through the blending so that the basil and nuts are nicely reduced first. (If you want to freeze the pesto, try using less oil now, and then when you thaw it, add a little more oil then.)
As you may have noticed, this is an extra easy recipe and a great way to use up lots of basil. In case you are wondering what on earth to do with the pesto here are a few ideas.
*Toss with some hot pasta and/or roasted veggies.
*Put on a pizza instead of tomato sauce and top with fresh mozzarella and your favorite veggies, I like broccoli and kalamata olives.
*Put in your next grilled mozzerella Panini with some sliced tomatoes, grilled eggplant and olives.
*Spread on toast or crackers and top with cheese (especially feta or mozzarella) and fresh veggies sliced thin.
*Add a little extra oil, and use it as a salad dressing, a sauce over rice, or to coat tofu or paneer before baking.
*Put it on baked potatoes or mashed potatoes. It’s a lovely balance for the simple flavor of almost any potato dish.
Really the possibilities are numerous and the room for artistic expression is great. As the flavour of the basil is quite strong this may not be a favourite of your little one but you never know, I do know an almost three year old that likes to eat raw kale.