What a great food year it’s been! I’ve discovered that I do in fact like fennel and chowder (and fennel chowder), learned better ways to chop peppers and onions, explored the wonders of the fava bean, eaten my first zeppoli, developed an unhealthy obsession with Iggy’s Francese bread, and forever banned Vlasic pickles in favor of Claussens. As an aside — seriously? I have been MISSING OUT for years! I had no idea the difference between the shelf-stable, ho-hum excuses for pickles you find in the middle aisles of the grocery store compared to the crunchy, tasty, lip-smacking goodness of a pickle from the refrigerated deli section! If you haven’t made this discovery yet, RUN, do not walk, to your nearest grocery store and do a taste test. May I never eat those things I used to call “pickles” ever again. Pickle rant aside…What’s the point of all this, you may wonder? On to my latest revelation: I like pesto! When it’s done right, that is.
It all started with the basil, of course. After sampling several vendors, I can safely say that the Siena Farms stand is THE place to get your basil if you frequent the Copley Square Farmers Market. For one, their bunches are big, full, and include more stems in each bunch than most other stands. More importantly, they’re the only stand I’ve found that give you the entire stem — including the root! What this means is that your basil — kept in a cup of water on your kitchen counter — lasts twice as long as a bunch without the roots.
Inspired by the abundance of basil (and emboldened by my many new taste acquisitions of the year), I decided that I needed to give pesto another shot. I do love basil, after all; it was the pine nuts that made me squeamish before. For this adventure, I knew I didn’t want to mess around. I wanted to go to a proper authority for the recipe to get the best pesto possible. In my mind, this means one thing only: the good folks over at Cook’s Illustrated. If you’re not familiar with them, they approach recipe writing like scientists, doing lab test after lab test until the final recipe is perfected. They did not let me down.
Abridged from Cook’s Illustrated, The Best Italian Classics
- 1/4 c. pine nuts
- 3 med cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 2 c. packed fresh basil leaves
- 7 T. extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 t. salt
- 1/4 c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
Toast nuts in a small, heavy skillet over med heat, stirring frequently, until just golden & fragrant, 4-5 minutes. Set aside.
In same pan, toast the garlic cloves, shaking pan occasionally, about 7 minutes. Cool, peel, and chop.
Place basil in a large ziploc freezer bag, and use meat pounder or rolling pin to bruise all leaves.
Combine nuts, garlic, basil, olive oil & salt in a food processor; process until smooth.
Transfer mixture to a small bowl and mix in the Parmesan; add salt as needed to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and use within 3 days.
It was so very, very good. As in, it’s all I can do to keep myself from running back out to the market and buying out their entire inventory of basil so I can make this by the bucketful. I was talking pesto with my mom prior to trying out the recipe, bemoaning how most jarred pestos tend to be overly oily at best, cloying in taste at worst. Not this pesto! Even the resident picky eater of the house liked it, and we happily slathered it on bread (Iggy’s Francese, of course) as snacks in between using it for meals. Next blog post: what we DID with the pesto! Get your food processors out and make some up so you can join in the fun!