One of my culinary versions of perfect deliciousness is garlic, lots of it, basil, and olive oil: pesto. I regularly make this in the summertime, either in the blender or by hand. Pesto in Italian means “to pound,” so on occasion I try the old school method with a mortar and pestle, but usually revert to the blender, as it’s a lot easier and quicker! You can serve it on warm pasta, over grilled veggies or meat, in soups and salads, or with fresh bread, any place you want a little oomph to the dish you’re cooking. The only thing I have to remember is to not get too close to people the next morning; while I’ll be keeping away the warlocks and bugs with my garlic breath, I might also be keeping away other humans!
I made this the other night and thought I had died and gone to heaven. Admittedly, I put in a little too much garlic, even for me, but it was still peppery, spicy, and delicious. I had a couple of garlic scapes I bought at the farmer’s market, added that to mix this time, along with the basil, chopped garlic, olive oil, and cheese. (Garlic scapes are the tops of garlic bulbs, that come up in June or so. Be sure to use the scape below the little bulb, the very top can be discarded. They are a milder flavor than their counterpart, a little tough, but good! Try them in the recipe or in a stir fry for a little bit of garlic flavor.) If I have it on hand, I’ll also add a small handful of parsley. I’ve also made the same recipe with cilantro in place of the basil. I was skeptical at first, but it too is delicious.
When I have an overflow of basil and garlic in August, I make batches of pesto and freeze it for later use. Placed in tiny containers with plastic wrap on top to ward off freezer burn, opening one of these in the middle of January is like a breath of summer and is a gentle reminder of what we can look forward to in a mere six months.
As with many of dishes I make, this one I make up as I go along, depending on what I have on hand. So, here goes:
Fresh Basil and Garlic Scape Pesto
• About 2 cups fresh basil
• 2-3 cloves of fresh garlic, coarsely chopped
• 2 garlic scapes, chopped
• 2 tablespoons of pine nuts, almonds, or walnuts (optional)
• About 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
• About 1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
With the blender on “chop,” add the basil through the chute. Add the chopped garlic and scapes, cleaning the sides of the blender as you go along. Add the nuts, if using. With the blender whirring, gently add the olive oil. Add the cheese, then make sure everything is well mixed before adding to your dish.