Homemade basil pesto is a staple in this house. It’s incredibly versatile and not just a Pretty-Delicious face. I like to think of it as a culinary ‘app’. There’s pasta sauce, of course, but it can also be used as a fine add-on to open sandwiches topped with roasted veg, decadent inside Mediterranean phyllo parcels, a base for a white sauce (I’ll tell you about that soon), or even in the more pedestrian ‘snackwich’.
With the weather cooling down, the latter is a recent discovery: freshly sliced tomato, coarse salt, black pepper, a generous dollop of pesto and the ensemble supported by a cheeky layer of skordalia* for an extra flavour kick. The whole lot can then be butchered in a snackwich machine for a quick ‘n dirty comfort food. Consider it the gastronomic version of a romp in the hay.
With the warm weather saying its devastating goodbyes, our basil plants are slowly coming to an end. I’ll be making the most of summer’s abundance over the next few weeks by preparing pots of pesto to hopefully carry us through (some) of winter.
Living in a small town has meant foregoing certain conveniences. For example, readily available pine nuts, which can also be quite pricey, wherever you are.
Almonds are a great substitute when you don’t happen to have pine nuts. There’s really no change in consistency, and very little in taste. They’re the go-to ingredient of choice when it comes to pesto without pine nuts. Once I realised this, I tried using different replacements, such as raw peanuts.
The result is a very meaty consistency. Unlike almonds, however, longevity is a bit more limited. Raw peanuts tend to soak up moisture, so it’s best to have this pesto within three days or so – not because it perishes, but because of the texture.
I’ve also heard that you can use pumpkin seeds, and I’ll be trying that soon. Previously, I’ve used sunflower seeds, but they seem to be a harder nut (seed) to crack, so to speak, and it turned out a bit ‘bitty’, although not entirely disastrous, and can be used in a pinch.
Here’s the lowdown on making your own pesto. Please note that I’m not one for exact measurements, but this is something that can easily be figured out with feeling:A healthy fistful of basil leaves (how many dollar notes can you hold? Really, I mean this.) ½ cup of pine nuts OR almonds OR raw peanuts OR seeds etc. 3 to 4 T olive oil Salt Freshly ground black pepper 1 to 2 cloves of garlic (to taste)
Put it all in a blender and there we go. If it’s too pungent or oily, add more nuts and seeds. If it’s too dry, add more oil. It’s really to your own taste.
What’s that you say? You don’t have any basil leaves? Not to worry, fresh coriander will also do. It’s not quite basil, but not exactly coriander either. Try it, it’s the kind of recipe where you can’t really go wrong, it’s just that no-one likes to talk about it out loud.
* The Skordalia is a recent re-discovery sent over by mother. I’ll be looking up a recipe to share with you (or maybe I’ll just call her, because hers was divine).