I can remember the first time that I ever had pesto. Actually, I can remember the first time that I ever had Italian food. One of my grade-school teachers was from Birmingham and happened to be a West Bromwich Albion fan. My father, who worked on the box-office side at Chelsea (the world’s greatest soccer club in the history of the game) slipped her some complementary tickets for Chelsea’s home game to West Brom. There was an extra ticket and I accompanied her family to the game. Afterwards, she took us all to an Italian restaurant. I had a bowl of ravioli. It was meaty, gummy and gooey, on a cold afternoon in London, with plenty of cheese and a thick tomato sauce. Looking back, I suspect that it was not very Italian and not especially good quality. However, I was thoroughly impressed and in love with the comforting flavors found in that bowl.
Fortunately, my tastes have developed a little. However, they still tend towards comfort food and pasta with pesto ranks right up there as one of my favorite comfort foods. In the warm months, I grow basil in my garden so that I can whip up a batch of fresh pesto whenever the fancy takes me. This year, I also planted Lemon Basil and I am not sorry that I did. You can use it shredded in salad or anywhere that you would use fresh basil, but it also adds a hit of lemon. Juice and zest can be added to intensify the experience.
This is actually Purple Basil.
This is Lemon Basil. Lemon Basil is similar to it’s regular cousin, except smaller, a little more dainty and it has smoother leaves!
Lemon Basil Pesto
– 2-4 cloves of garlic.
– 1/2 C of almonds. Fancy folk use toasted pine nuts.
– 1 1/2 C fresh lemon basil.
– zest of one lemon.
– juice of the lemon that you just zested.
– 1 C EVOO.
– 1/2 C grated Parmesan. If you have the money to put down you could use Parmigiano-Reggiano or a blend.
The wonderful thing about getting older is that you discover why your food processor has a pulse button.
I like my pesto to be slightly lumpy with nut meat (yes, I said that). So, I chop my garlic before I put in my nuts, so that it can be ground finer. If you leave chunks of garlic, you will have a garlic experience not dissimilar to horseradish .
I use a Microplane to zest my lemon and then put the naked lemon in a microwave (see what I did there?) for 30 seconds to maximize the juice yield.
All of the ingredients, including the EVOO, are added to the food processor.
And pulsed until you get the desired consistency.
A couple of notes on Pesto and Basil generally:
Please note that, unlike many recipes, I have not added any salt. The amount of salt used varies considerably depending on what you are going to do with your pesto. Used with pasta, it will require more salt than used as the base for a shrimp cocktail. Add salt to taste after your prepare the final dish.
Cheese does not like to be heated. Add the cheese after reheating your pesto and add it to the finish dish, not the ingredients. Your food will have better consistency and the washing of dishes will be far easier!
Basil does not like to be frozen. It is a hardy plant and will continue to grow in your garden well into the fall and up to the first hard frost. It also means that fresh basil does not freeze well. Since you are likely to have large plants with plenty of leaves by the end of the growing season, it is useful to remember that fresh basil, once coated with EVOO, does freeze well. So make up batches of pesto, together with batches of chopped basil leaves on their own and coated with EVOO. The freeze the mixture in ice-cube trays. Once frozen, they can be put into a freezer baggie and used throughout the winter when you crave pesto or fresh basil.
Make pesto while the sun shines…
W I N T E R I S C O M I N G
I made pesto a few weeks ago with Marcella Hazan’s recipe (still have on serving in the freezer). We didn’t plant lemon basil this year, but I will give your recipe a try, as I love lemon-flavored anything.
Yes, it came as a very pleasant surprise and I thoroughly recommend it. Thanks for your feedback – Philip
My first batch is in the freezer. Taste tests are favorable so far, even without the cheese – love the lemony-ness.