July 16, 2013

Homemade Pesto using basil and almonds (or any nuts, realy)

I love pesto - it's so simple and so good on hot, buttered pasta. I also have a favorite cold pasta salad that is as simple as adding pesto and black (ripe) olives to tortellini or ravioli... however I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of pine nuts. I made my first pesto back in the early 90's by using traditional ingredients but over the years started to use 'whatever I had on hand' which was usually pecans, walnuts or almonds. And to be honest, I found I liked them just fine! Best of all, I could usually whip up pesto on the spur of the moment without a special trip to the store, as I usually planted a bit of basil in my gardens.

Well, I do not have a 'garden' currently, but I do have a little planter I built out of an old pallet I found half submerged in our creek bed, which I assume has been there since the house was built by the original owner in 2007/2008. I planted simple kitchen favorites like parsley, basil, cilantro, green onions and rosemary and chives (although my rosemary didn't grow and the chives were skinny little things that soon killed themselves off). But the basil? Oh, as you can tell from the photos, the hot and wet weather we've had has made my basil go crazy! Even though we use it regularly in sauces, salads and pizza, I can't keep up! So today... is a pesto kind of day!

After I gathered my basil and gave it a 'hair cut' - looks much better!

Simple Pesto

3 c fresh basil leaves
3/4 c olive oil
4-5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 c toasted almonds
salt & pepper to taste

To toast the almonds I place them in a flat pan on the stove and continuously shake and stir over medium high heat until they are golden brown. You can also toast them in the oven on a baking sheet at 450 degrees for about 10 minutes, stirring and tossing a couple times. To the amounts above, use a little more or less of the garlic based on your own tastes. I don't measure the garlic precisely but I would say I probably use about 6 cloves total. I also add a dash of garlic salt sometimes instead of regular salt. I do this if I know I'm making this batch to go on hot pasta or spreading on toasted French bread. To blend, just put everything but the oil into a food processor and pulse process while you drizzle the olive oil in through the top. Pulse just until blended and smooth, don't over do it.

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