One of my new-found favorite things is Pesto. I absolutely adore it… well, I adore mine anyway. One of the biggest problems that I have with it, is the fact that I’ve never tried anyone’s except mine. Therefore, I don’t really know what any other pesto tastes like. For years I wouldn’t even try it due to its weird color and unknown texture. Textures have been the downfall of more food for me than I ever thought possible. To me, the pesto that I would see in restaurants and stores looked mushy. Mushy anything is an absolute, never fail turn off. It’s one of the reasons that I have always hated lima beans. To me, their very taste defines mushy. Go ahead and laugh, everyone else does!
I grew an outstanding crop of basil in my garden this year, and have been looking up all the different ways I can use it other than my standard marinara and tomato based sauces. I saw all sorts of recipes for pesto and knew that I was going to have to try one. Most of the ones that I came across said to use toasted pine nuts. Finally I found one that said you could really sub almonds or whatever kind of nut you wanted to use. This was good news for me since I wasn’t really keen on the whole pine nut thing. I’m not even exactly sure what they are. But they sound funny. And not funny ha-ha either. The first couple of batches that I made used toasted slivered almonds, but after lots of experimenting, I believe that I like it better without nuts of any kind. It seems to have a cleaner, crisper taste without them. After much trial and error (and a lot of fun tasting)! I have come up with, what I think, is a good summery Pesto.
First I stuff 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fresh-cut basil into my little chopper. I then pulse it until it’s coarsely chopped, and no whole leaves are left. To this I add 2 smashed cloves of garlic, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste and a few tablespoons of lemon juice. More pulsing. Last, I add about a 1/4 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Then I let it whir around in the chopper until it reaches a nice emulsion. The acid in the lemon juice really does a lot to bring out the pungent basil and it smells amazing! I will usually get a pot of water boiling for pasta before I start. By the time the pesto is finished, I throw a couple of handfuls of orzo in and a few minutes later, lunch is served! I drain, but do not rinse the pasta and then place it in a bowl and toss with the fresh pesto. The heat from the pasta is just enough to lightly warm the pesto and really make the flavors shine. I also use this as a side dish for when the big and little grill bratwurst. It is a perfect complement!