Edmonds Healthy Eating: Pesto perfection

basilpesto1Right now my garden continues to bring me daily treats. We’ve had enough heat that I am enjoying warm tomatoes right off the vine….as well as zucchini, cucumbers, beans, and delicious carrots. We are even starting to get a second crop of raspberries! But I know school is about to start again when my basil plants are overwhelming me. So what do I like to do? Make pesto and freeze it for quick and healthy meals when I am pressed for time. The key is to use what you have on hand and to freeze this magical sauce in ice cube trays (when they are frozen you pop them out and store in Ziploc bags.) If you read my column about making a quick crumble, you will know that I like to improvise and be casual about my recipes. You can do the same thing with this recipe.

Ingredients:
2 cups fresh basil leaves (you can also use parsley, fennel, arugula, carrot tops, spinach, baby kale, swiss chard, sun-dried tomatoes or any combination)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan-Reggiono, Grana Padano, or Romano cheese (the best that you can afford)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3-1/2 cup walnuts (or pine nuts, macadamia nuts, pecans)
1-2 Tablespoons garlic
1 Teaspoon fresh Black Pepper
1 Tablespoon fresh Lemon juice (or powdered unflavored Vitamin C. You can crush up your supplement pills!)
Method:

Traditionally pesto is made in a mortar and pestle, but I use a food processor because it is quick and easy. A blender doesn’t work for this recipe.

Place the leaves and nuts in the bowl of the food processor and pulse several times until the ingredients are crushed and mixed. Add the garlic and grated cheese and pulse again. Scrape the side of the processor several times during this process.

Add the black pepper and lemon juice. (My “trick” is to use pure, unflavored Vitamin C powder from the health food store because pesto darkens when exposed to air. Using the Vitamin C prevents this oxidation and the pesto will stay a beautiful green color.)

While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream. Adding the olive oil in this way will help the pesto emulsify so that the ingredients do not separate. Scrape the side of the processor several times during this process.

Use immediately with pasta, rice, baked potatoes, grilled chicken, spread for crackers or toasted bread, and even use in quiches, omelets, pizza toppings….the possibilities are endless. You may want to add hot water when adding to pasta.

If you are freezing, spread into ice cube trays. Freeze until hard and then store the frozen cubes in a Ziploc bag.

So head to the market and pick up your favorite “green”….pesto offers a quick and easy meal. Remember you can always add more or less cheese, nuts, garlic or pepper to suit your tastes. It’s hard to mess this one up because it’s simple and delicious in almost any configuration of ingredients.

Happy and healthy eating,

– By Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder Formal PortraitDeborah Binder lives in Edmonds with her family. She is “dancing with N.E.D.” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share here experiments with her family. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and currently chef assists at PCC Cooks and NuCulinary Cooking School. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at jaideborah@yahoo.com.

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2 Comments

  1. AI love that you added carrot tops to your recipe ingredient list. So many times people just toss them, or at PCC the other day they even offered to chop them off and compost them for me, if I did not want them. I did, and went home to make a pesto of the fresh tops( from organic Nate’s carrots) using a bit of Cilantro, Mint and a jalapeno pepper.. to give it a kick!

  2. My potted basil is out of control. Pinching off blooms every day, leaves getting larger along with the overall plant. I would love to be able to freeze the smaller leaves for later use. I don’t want to just make pesto, but use the more tender leaves in sauces and soups. I don’t have a dehydrator, and am hoping fresh dry freezing them, using a vacuum sealer will do it. Alternative, all my neighbors want my basil! No, no! Help with best suggestion besides pesto.

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