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Pesto is the perfect way to add the richness, warmth and freshness of summertime to foods all year long. I like to use zip lock type plastic freezer bags to store pesto in the freezer. This method of storage makes it simple to break off a small portion for a recipe. Make sure to press out all the air so that the color will be maintained. You may also freeze pesto in ice cube trays, then remove from the trays and bag the cubes for easy portions of pesto. Or, put it into a freezer safe container and cover the top with a thin layer of oil to keep the color fresh.
Don’t stop with just basil in your pesto! Use lemon basil for a lively pesto. Make pesto with cilantro when basil is no longer in season. Use oregano and parsley or dill with parsley or add some zip with fresh arugula with your choice of herbs. Tarragon or mint would also make an interesting pesto. Spinach or sorrel leaves may also be used to make pesto. Remove any large stems before using.
Use walnuts, pecans, almonds, macadamia nuts or pumpkin seeds instead of the traditional pine nuts. Toasting the nuts or seeds before adding them to the pesto brings out more of their flavor. Toast in the oven or a dry skillet, but avoid burning them, just get them lightly browned.
Add roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, olives, chipotle chilies, artichoke hearts, or roasted eggplant to vary the flavor of your pesto. Try using a variety of cheeses besides Parmesan. Use Romano, cream cheese, havarti, or even blue cheese. Your choice of herbs will dictate which cheese will be appropriate.
To reduce the calorie content of pesto use garbanzo beans, English peas or well drained firm tofu to replace some of the oil and cheese in the basic recipe. Adding a splash of balsamic vinegar or chardonnay will add zest and character to your pesto.
Here are some ideas for using your stored pesto:
Basic Basil Pesto Recipe
Turn the food processor on and add the garlic to the machine. Remove the cover, add the basil leaves. Pulse until chopped evenly and finely. Add the pine nuts and process until they are smooth.
Slowly drizzle the olive oil in through the top opening with the machine running. Add the cheese and process until smooth.
Makes about 1 ½ cup of pesto. Keep refrigerated for up to one week or freeze.
Article Type: Tip