Sunday, September 01, 2013

Backyard Basil Pesto

If you’ve ever made homemade basil pesto, the only thing you are likely to learn from this post is that the success or failure of backyard gardening is often based on dumb luck.

Last year, I planted basil in pots in an attempt to create a trendy container herb garden. I tucked some kale and Swiss chard into a traditional bed and hoped for the best. The kale and Swiss Chard thrived, while the basil struggled. In fact, the basil either fried in the sun (as I frequently forgot to water it) or sat in pools of water for days after a summer thunderstorm released a deluge from the sky.
This season, I decided to plant one of these basil beauties from Restoration Farm in the backyard patch I’ve reserved for herbs and greens, and this summer, the basil is thriving.  The initial plants, plus two others I received as gifts, with no nurturing whatsoever are the size of small shrubs.  
So with basil leaves the size of palm leaf fronds nodding at me from the garden, I must finally acquiesce and make a batch of backyard basil pesto.

It really is as easy as they all say – about 10 minutes or less from garden to kitchen.    I’m a little amazed at all the “original recipes” for pesto I find proliferating online.   Let’s face it – there’s not a lot you can do to mess with this one. It’s basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, salt, pepper, and grated cheese. This basic recipe from the Food Network Kitchens works just fine. 

Harvesting the basil is kind of a soothing, visceral experience. A heavy perfume of liquorice hangs in the warm summer afternoon air.  
My one stab at originality consists of using a lemon infused olive oil I purchased at the local farmers market the day before.   It does add a certain brightness to the party. 

There are people who will tell you a salad spinner is a useless item. But it’s quite handy for rinsing the basil leaves and spinning them dry. Even when I believe the leaves are free of water, I manage to spin away several tablespoons more. 
From there, the food processor is the kitchen tool of choice. Part of the appeal of this recipe is the additional directions for freezing. Grated Pecorino or Parmesan can be added once the pesto has been thawed. 
So, the pesto is pulsed smooth and poured into a freezer safe jar, the shimmering green puree ready when I need it to adorn grilled chicken or pasta at some later date.  
And, I’m already expecting that whatever plant is bombing this year will likely be my top performer in next year’s kitchen garden. 

©2013 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Anonymous said...

A very tasty easy basil pesto,...I love it too!
I had the same problems with my basil from last year! This year, I planted it in my garden & it was also thriving!!


Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

Great idea to use the salad spinner for drying the basil. Our basil has thrived this year too.

We're going to attempt basil oil. You've given me a great idea about the infused lemon olive oil. Somewhere there was one scattered among my many vinegars...

~~louise~~ said...

Happy September T.W!

Would you believe I'm lacking basil in the garden this year? By the time I realized I didn't have any, it was too late to plant.

There are so many varieties now of basil too. It looks like you may have "put up" the Genovese variety. I LOVE the purple ornamental basil too but I've never made pesto from it.

Well, at least now I know where I can get some fresh pesto in the dead of winter. I'll just have to go down to Long Island!

Thank you so much for sharing, T.W...Enjoy your weekend:)

Velva said...

There is nothing better than a good homegrown basil pesto....Salad spinners? An absolute must when you make lots of salad greens especially from the garden.


Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I always freeze several containers of pesto at the end of the summer, and pull it out for pasta or soups at unexpected times during the year. Generally I add the cheese before I freeze it, and no harm done.

Laura Luciano said...

Lovely! Growing up in an Italian family I grew up on the emerald delight. Here is some mashed bananas and now for a dollop of pesto. Arlotta makes a nice olive oil met them last year at the Garlic Festival at the Garden of Eve. If you have a bunch of Kale around you may like to try your hand at making a Kale Pesto, with toasted walnuts. Your Pesto looks lovely. :)

Kalyn Denny said...

Yaay for backyard basil, homemade pesto and salad spinners. I'm having pretty good luck with the basil in my kitchen window, but it's a huge south-facing window and I am OCD about watering it!

Gloria Baker said...

I love basilmy really favorite for summer (we are next spring and summe rwe have a lot of basil) I plant always some basil because I love to have for any, Love your pesto!

Zany said...

I guess this easy dish is your reward for all the work you did with the fava beans!

Now how long will that last in the freezer?

Deana Sidney said...

You know, I have to grow in pots (thank you coop board) and placed my pots out this year. One pot, with pennyroyal and patchouli was doing badly. I moved it 4 feet away and it is thriving! Go figure. 4 feet, same pot and big difference.

Your pesto is gorgeous and the best part is you will have a bit of summer whenever you crack one open (and it's from your own garden).

Barbara said...

Your basil pesto looks perfect. I use Ina's recipe (almost the same) and grow it in my kitchen. Sometimes with great success, sometimes failure. Who knows why? Gardening is ever fascinating and ever puzzling. Think it's why I love your Restoration Farm posts.

Mary Bergfeld said...

This sounds delicious, T.W. It look perfect and you've inspired me to make an infused oil the next time I prepare it. I hope your week is going well. Blessings...Mary

Catherine said...

Dear T.W., It really is a blessing to be able to walk outside and have the fresh herbs.
I love it!! and am always so grateful for it.
Pesto is just so much fun. There are so many ways to enjoy it.
It is even great with some crusty bread and a nice piece of cheese or salami...
Blessings, Catherine