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Welcome to Gardens to Tables Recipes Main Courses Alan's Loosey Goosey Pesto Recipe
Alan's Loosey Goosey Pesto Recipe Print E-mail
Written by Alan Toy   

What to do with a bumper crop of basil? One word: pesto. Here's a great recipe from Alan Toy, one of the gardeners at the Park Drive Community Garden in Santa Monica:

Start with a whole bunch (that's figurative, not a literal bunch) of basil, including perennial types (I use three different varieties, but mostly the really green, annual kind), with the leaves picked from stems (including their own stems if they are large leaves) - at least six ounces or more of plucked leaves.

About a quarter that much cilantro leaves, also picked from their stems

About ten ounces of pine nuts, toasted† (just spread them on a cookie sheet and put in the oven at about 350 for a few minutes.† Don't forget them or they'll burn before you know it.

About 6 ounces of pumpkin seeds, shelled and also toasted† (same method as the pine nuts)

1 - 2 whole heads of garlic, depending on how much you like the stuff - I use two (peeled, of course)

A bottle of extra virgin olive oil, which you'll add throughout - the exact amount you'll use is up to you, but start with a bottle of least 12 ounces

4 - 6 ounces of grated Asiago cheese (Pavilions/Vons has it in bags, ready to go)

Some sea salt (a few pinches)

6 to 8 zip lock baggies

One gallon sized zip lock baggie

You'll also need a good knife and cutting board for the garlic, a food processor or a good grater/blender thingy, a couple of bowls and a spatula and/or a large stirring spoon.

I start by blending up the nuts, cheese and garlic a pinch or two of the salt with enough OO to make it into a paste (use your judgment and pour it through the spout as it is blending/processing.† You'll probably need to do this in batches, unless you own an industrial sized processor.† Grind it all up on high until you've gotten a pretty fine mixture.† If you need to do it in batches, divide the nuts and garlic fairly evenly, blend and pour the first batch into a bowl and make the next.

Once you have your nutty, garlic, cheesy mixture finished, you're ready to put it back into the processor in reasonable sized batches and add the basil and cilantro proportionally, to blend it all together.† This will require you adding more olive oil and more basil and cilantro to get the color, taste and consistency you like.† Once you have made one batch, set it aside in another bowl and make the next batch.† Then combine the batches and stir with a spoon or spatula until they are well mixed together.† The final product should be fairly nutty, but deep green and very basil-ly too, with some oil separating from it, but not totally runny either.

Then spoon it into zip-lock baggies and squeeze out the air.† Unless you've got a huge family, and make giant portions of food, don't overfill them.† The finished baggies should look kind of like lids of weed. (C'mon, you all remember how much that is, you're community gardeners, for Pete's sake.)† But if you truly haven't a clue how much I mean, put about 6 ounces in each baggie, or about a third full.† That's enough for a healthy portion of pasta or for covering chicken breasts for four, or a platter full of smeared pesto topped with bruschetta on lightly toasted sourdough baguette slices for an appetizer dish. (Yes, I like the pesto under the bruschetta, but it's good without the bruschetta - or even without the pesto, which is what you can do with any leftover basil leaves from this recipe, but you'll have to look up a good recipe for that yourself.)

This recipe makes about 6 or so of those baggie portions.† Eat one right away (itís always nice to reward yourself when cooking), give one to your boss or a good friend and freeze the rest of the baggies stored in a gallon sized baggie for those days when only a really good homemade pesto sauce will do.


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