It’s time to make pesto. A lot of pesto.
I haven’t personally ventured into the canning, jam-making homestead-y realm of cooking (YET!), but I have been known to freeze summer’s most precious produce for later consumption. No special equipment is needed for batch freezing apart from plastic containers and freezer space, and I can save my favorites long enough to get to revisit them during that dark night of the soul known as winter after the holidays. I realize that basil can be bought year-round in most of America these days, but it’s not the same to me. And don’t even get me started on store bought pesto (dull. sham. flames. on the side of my face.).
Though to be fair I didn’t know anything about really good pesto until I got a kitchen job where I had to make it all the time. Once I had the real thing, I was ruined for everything else, and now I can’t live without the stuff. Proper stuff. With piles of fresh cheese and garlic and toasted nuts and basil that is properly blanched (for prettiness, ease of blending, and I swear it changes the flavor). Nothing compares.
If you’ve had good pesto without blanched basil it might be hard for me to convince you that blanching is important. Maybe we could debate it. But don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I really think it’s worth the extra trouble. I say I will be freezing my pesto so I can revisit it in winter, but if I’m honest, it will most likely be gone by November because I put it in and on everything.
Like eggs. D you know how good pesto on toast is with a runny fried egg on top (or folded into soft scrambled fluffiness)? Look into it.
Big Batch of Pesto
(makes about 4 cups pesto per cup of blanched basil)
-as much basil as you can get your hands on
-about 3/4 cup toasted pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, or whatever mix of those that you like for each cup of basil (after blanching)
-about 3-4 cloves garlic per cup of blanched basil
-about 1 1/2 cups parmesan, finely grated, per cup of blanched basil
-about 1 cup pecorino romano, finely grated, per cup of blanched basil
-about 1 cup olive oil per cup of blanched basil
-salt, to taste
1. Start by blanching your basil, since all your other measurements depend on how much the basil shrinks after it’s blanched and squeezed. While picking the basil leaves from the stems, set a medium pot of water over high heat and wait for it to boil. When the water boils, turn the heat to medium-high. After your basil is picked, get a bowl of ice water ready and set it next to the stove. Drop bunches of basil into the hot water until they are just wilted and use a slotted spoon to transfer the wilted basil into the ice water. You will likely have to work in batches because raw basil is very voluminous, but it goes quickly.
2. When all the basil is blanched and cooled in the ice water, remove the basil to a clean tea towel and wring it out over the sink. Separate your basil into one-cup portions.
3. Place a cup of blanched basil in the bowl of a food processor along with the toasted nuts and garlic, and pulse to finely chop the ingredients.
4. Scrape down the sides of the food processor and add the grated parmesan and pecorino cheese.
5. Turn on the food processor and let it run while you slowly pour in your olive oil. Scrape down the bowl and pulse to re-mix as necessary.
6. Taste the pesto, add salt until it is as savory as you like. Add olive oil if the pesto is too thick and more cheese or nuts if it is too thin.
7. Portion the pesto into freezable, airtight containers, mark them with the date they were made, and stash them for later use. You can store them in the freezer for up to 6 months and defrost them in the fridge when you want to eat them. Possibly atop a slice of toast and beneath an over-easy egg.