Monday, September 7, 2009

GardenCuizine Recipe: The Best Basil Pesto

Italian Basil Pesto 
with a Japanese secret ingredient
Preserving your garden harvest of Basil by making Pesto will provide you with the flavor of fresh basil throughout the year. We freeze our pesto in 16-ounce (473ml), or smaller sized containers. Small size containers defrost quickly when set out on the counter while you are preparing the meal. 
Fresh (vs. dry) Basil for Pesto 
Dried basil can be used in certain foods, but for the best garden pesto use fresh rather than dried. Growing your own makes the pesto even better. 
What is the Japanese Secret Ingredient? 
The unusual, non traditional, non Italian, secret ingredient is Umeboshi Vinegar. I got hooked on using Ume vinegar years ago, when I had my health food store and restaurant (Garden of Eden Natural Foods and Country Kitchen, Inc.). Ume Vinegar is made with Japanese Plums and Shiso leaves preserved in a salty brine. Using just a small amount imparts terrific flavor. And when coupled with a small amount of added grated cheese, you will not need to add any table salt to the pesto.
Sicilian Olives
Another key ingredient is good quality olive oil. Depending on the size of your basil harvest, you can end up using quite a lot of olive oil when making pesto. We purchase a large (101oz, 3L) can of Italian Olive Oil and use this as a good excuse for an excursion to the Italian Market in Philadelphia, PA. The organoleptic quality (taste) and my Sicilian heritage make extra virgin olive oil made from Sicilian olives my first choice. You can find many fine olive oils on the market from around the world including: Spain, Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Syria, Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco. Putting it all together The recipe can be easily doubled. Two times the recipe (double) fits nicely into a standard household food processor bowl, just blend down the first addition of basil before adding in the next batch and add the nuts last. Umeboshi vinegar can be found in Asian, gourmet and natural food markets.         Yields: one 16oz (2cups, 473ml) container    
4 cups (~120-160g) fresh Basil leaves* 
1 cup (237 ml) extra virgin olive oil 
¼ to 1/3 cup (~25+g) grated cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, Pecorino or Soy) 
¼ cup (34g) toasted pignoli (pine) nuts (or other nuts such as walnuts) 
1 teaspoon (~5ml) Umeboshi vinegar (optional) 
1/2 teaspoon (~1g) fresh ground black pepper 
1 Tablespoon (~8g) minced garlic  
*We usually stick with basil, but you can mix in other edible, aromatic leaves from your garden too such as: Shiso, Mint, Arugula or Cilantro.
  • First, sanitize a kitchen sink; then fill it with water to rinse the fresh cut basil. We put the basil in large pots with water like you would cut flowers to let the leaves air dry. This allows time to admire your gardening efforts. Sometimes we let it dry overnight. When the leaves are dry, hand pick all the good leaves from the stems and place into a large bowl. Reject any brown or bad looking leaves.
Toss the stems and rejected leaves (if any) into your compost pile.
  • Toast the nuts, set aside. After all your ingredients are ready, begin filling a food processor* bowl with everything except the nuts and garlic. Mix and chop down the leaves, using your judgment as to how long to mix the pesto. You want to leave some texture to it.
  • Add the garlic. Mix some more.Taste the pesto and adjust the seasonings if necessary to your liking. Add the nuts last and don't over mix. Pour the pesto into freezer safe containers, label and store.
*Pesto can also be made using a large mortar and pestle     Buon Appetito!
Related GardenCuizine Posts:   Pomodoro Sauce  GardenCuizine Product Spotlight: Umeboshi Basil, King of Herbs      Related Links: Health Benefits of Olive Oil by Katherine Zeratsky, RD, LD Mayo Clinic        A Stroll through Philadelphia's Italian Market by Jeff DiNunzio National Geographic Traveler         Basil, the King of Herbs by Diana Wind, Dave's Garden             GardenCuizine Nutrition Analysis: calculated from USDA nutrient values Italian Basil Pesto, 1/32 of recipe Good source: Vitamin K  Serving size: 12g, Calories: 73, Calories from Fat: 69, Total Fat 8g (12%DV), Saturated Fat 1g (6%DV), Vitamin A 163IU (3%DV), Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol) 1mg (6%DV), Vitamin K 15mcg (18%DV), Calcium 15mg (2%DV), Sodium 45mg (2%DV), Manganese 0.1mg (6%DV)

Percent Daily Values (%DV) are based on a caloric intake of 2,000 calories for adults and children age 4 or older

Photographs and Blog Article Copyright © 2009 Wind. All rights reserved. rev 8/27/11


Nova said...

Pesto is great what I always have it with is roast lamb and beef, it also goes good with spicy ajvar and warm extra-virgin olive oil

Italian Olive Oil

GardenCuizine said...

Spicy ajvar sounds good (I had to look it up, I wasn't sure what it was). We love roasted peppers, especially in dips and hummus. My family would probably enjoy spicy ajvar too, along with some homemade bread or toasted whole wheat, garlic pita points.

Be well,