A Sauce for All Summer
It's too cold for field-grown basil, which requires overnight temperatures at 50' or above, but here at the Farm, we have an early supply from our greenhouses. Basil Pesto is the first thing that I always make with this herb. Last night it went on top of a Provencal-inspired halibut stew and tonight, I'll drizzle it over a homemade pizza. You'll find many recipes for this classic sauce, most with the same ingredients (basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, and Parmesan cheese) in varying proportions. Since pine nuts are expensive (Trader Joe's and Costco sell them for less than most grocery stores), I sometimes substitute walnuts. Marcella Hazan shares her version in her wonderful book Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. And of course, there are thousands of recipes online; I even found a vegan version that substitutes nutritional yeast for the cheese. (Off topic, I make a popcorn seasoning by combining nutritional yeast with crushed red pepper and salt...addictive). So I won't give yet another recipe, but I do have a tip: to set the bright green color, blanch your basil (dump it into boiling water for no more than a second, then immediately drain into a colander and rinse with cold water) and add some fresh parsley, which keeps it's bright color better than basil, to the other ingredients.
If you freeze or refrigerate the pesto, allow it to come to room temperature before using, and don't heat it over the stove, which will cause it to darken unpleasantly. Toss it with hot pasta, spoon it over a pizza, spread it on warm slices of bread, stir it into mayonnaise, spread it on grilled fish, eat it straight from a spoon.