Monday, September 17, 2012
Sunflower Seed-Pine Nut Basil Pesto
Last week, my neighbor, Fireman Josh, gave me the gift of the basil that had grown into a shrubbery in his garden. The 5 grocery-bags-full that I harvested took me 3 days to power through, and I actually ended up giving some of the basil away to two different friends....and still managed to make 26 batches of pesto. (!!!!)
Some of the batches I've given away to friends, and the rest is now in my freezer. I don't imagine that I will have the need to make pesto again for at least another year. I froze most of it in double batches in sandwich-sized Ziploc bags, but I also utilized my 3 ice cube trays to make some cubes of pesto for simple single-servings.
To make it more affordable, I used half pine-nuts/pignolis, and half sunflower seeds. I tried a batch made with cashews (which I really like in spinach or arugula pesto), but the flavor wasn't strong enough to balance the assertive basil. Want to make some pesto too? Here's my recipe, modified from the one that my mom always makes (feel free to substitute the greens and/or nuts or seeds -- pumpkin seed is good too!).
Pine-nut and Sunflower seed Basil Pesto
4 cups fresh basil (swirl and soak in a large bowl of cold water for about 5 minutes, then scoop the leaves out without disturbing the dirt and sediment that has sunk to the bottom)
2 cloves fresh garlic (slice off the root end, then whack the clove with the side of a butcher knife. The papery skin will come right off.)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh-squeezed juice and zest of half a lemon
1 large pinch of chicken bullion or chicken soup base (optional -- if you want this to be vegan, leave that out)
1 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)
freshly cracked black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons raw sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons pine nuts (also called pignoli nuts)
Freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese to serve (do not add this to the sauce if you are going to freeze it)
Combine all except the nuts and seeds in a blender (if you have a high-powered blender like a vita-mix, this will result in an extremely smooth pesto), or a food processor (for a little bit of chunk -- this is what our family prefers). Process until it is as smooth as you'd like, then add the nuts and seeds and pulse until they are slightly chopped and it is all combined.
Serve (with cheese, if desired) over 1 lb of pasta, or spoon it over fish, chicken, steaks. A cool spoonful added at the last moment to a bowl of hot soup is delicious. You can also use it as a sandwich spread. I love to make zucchini pasta (with my vegetable spiralizer) and toss that with the pesto. Nearly instant raw dinner, and so delicious!