Herbs from my Garden: Basil Pesto

My camera and I have been having a bit of a weird relationship lately. It’s been spending a lot of time closed up in its carry case, neglected and ignored. I haven’t had much of a desire or a reason to pull it out. This past weekend, however, I was off on an adventure around the city with a couple of my favourite girlfriends. What better time to get some good shots, right? I scrubbed up the lens, worked some drywall dust out of its mechanics, made sure it was packed away well, and we headed out on our two day extravaganza.

As we were walking down Church Street, I spied a little yarn bombing. For the uninitiated, yarn bombing takes the fiber arts and turns them into street art (or litter, depending on your point of view). This yarn bombing was rainbow coloured and decorating the trunks of a couple trees. I pulled out my camera for a quick shot, flicked it on and… no card. My SD card was at home, sitting in the SD slot of my computer.


I whipped out my phone and snapped a couple quick shots using the mediocre camera and put my camera away with a sigh.

Barely a block down the street, I decided this was silly – I was not going to carry my camera around all weekend in its useless state. We popped into a random tech store at the Eaton Centre and I slapped down a credit card for a brand new, 8GB card. That should keep me going, right?

Two hours and maybe 30 photos later, my battery died.

Whether it’s one or the other, this situation has been defining my relationship with my camera for the past number of months. This wouldn’t be a problem – not really – if it weren’t for the fact that, occasionally, I want to take pictures of things in order to write blog posts about them.

Case in point: pesto.

A couple month back, after I shared my little kitchen herb garden, two or three of my twitter friends requested recipe ideas to go with each one of these herbs. Yes! I thought. That’s a great idea! I mean, totally outside my abilities – I’ve hardly been doing any interesting cooking, let alone documenting it during this waterproofing/attic renovation chaos. And, I’ll be honest: I have no idea what to make with all that sage.

Basil, on the other hand, is easy. Good thing too, ’cause I have basil coming out of my ears. There’s the basil pot I planted. There’s a patch of basil in the garden, planted by our previous tenants. And then, there’s the four beautiful basil plants I’ve been growing in my kitchen window.

They were going a little wild and desperately needed to be cut back. Pesto is perfect for knocking out large quantities of basil. Also, it’s delicious.

By the time I got around to making the pesto, my kitchen window plants had gotten a little crazy and my SD card had disappeared again. This was my thought process:

“Fine. I won’t make pesto. We’ll have something else. KD. We haven’t had KD in a while. Since… last night.”
“No, that’s a bad idea. We should have the pesto. It will be delicious. Look, I already have the pasta boiling on the stove. I just won’t bother documenting. No blog post.”
“But then the basil will have to grow back before I can talk about it on the blog… and that will take forever! Which would mean I’d be even less likely to do any kind of herb blog series.”
“I suck at blogging.”
“Wait! I have a camera phone! True, using my camera phone might not make me much better at blogging… but I least I will have blogged!”

(Are you thinking of starting a blog? Don’t. It’s a bad idea.)

Indeed, my basil plants were going nuts and desperately needed to be cut back. They smelled amazing. Tasted amazing. So, I started snipping away. I don’t do anything special to cut them back. I snipped the stalk just above a couple healthy leaves. You don’t want to strip it bare – it won’t keep growing then. Where you snip it, the plant will develop two more stalks becoming thicker and larger with every trim.

You need about 2 cups of leaves.

(I had closer to three cups.)

Take those leaves, and put them into your food processor with

1/2 cup grate Parmesan
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled

Process this up a bit. Now, depending on the type of food processor you have the next step will be easy or super easy. You want to slowly add 1/2 cup olive oil while the machine is running. I have one of those food processors that comes as an attachment to an immersion blender. At this point in my life, it works for most things. Obviously, I can’t run the food processor and add things at the same time since the lid is attached to the power button. So, I just added a little bit, pulsed, added a little bit, pulsed, added it all, and ran the thing for 15 seconds. I’m not exactly the most patient person.

According to the recipe, you’re now supposed to season to taste with salt and pepper. I don’t actually recall doing this, and mine tasted fabulous. But, if you like things salty, season to taste!

Obviously, you can’t just eat pesto for supper. That would be… weird. I put it over a pasta with a bean medley. And it was amazing.

In hindsight, I should also have added some kind of vegetable. I mean, basil is vegetation. But it would have been more balanced with a little more green. Green beans from my garden would have been amazing. Or peppers. I don’t know. I’ll admit; I have a tough time getting my vegetables. Vegetables and I? we just don’t always get along.

This recipe comes from The Joy of Cooking, which is the single most used cookbook in my house. I love it. I love it so much, I own two copies and can’t bear to part with either one. If you don’t own a copy, you should go out and get one. I guarantee it will be useful at some point in your life. Alternatively, you can find the actual recipe here.

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