One of the simplest ways to add a little summer to your dishes is to use aromatic Mediterranean herbs. One of the most popular and probably easiest to grow is basil.
Like most kitchen herbs basil has some important health benefits. The herb is very rich antioxidant polyphenols, beta-carotene compounds including zeaxantihin, vitamin K, iron, potassium and manganese.
Basil is a versatile herb that can be used in a variety of dishes. One of the most popular is the Italian pesto sauce.
Pesto was first mentioned by a Roman writer Publius Vergilius Maro (70 BC – 19 BC), better known as Vergil, who wrote about this olive oil based sauce in his work "Bucolics".
The name pesto derives from the fact that was originally made by crashing - pestando in Italian - the ingredients in a mortar.
- small bunch of fresh, organic basil leaves
- handful of raw, organic pine nuts
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 6 Tbsp of virgin olive oil
- small chunk of parmigiano reggiano cheese
- sea salt to taste
Remove basil leaves from the twigs, wash them and dry gently with a kitchen towel.
Crash garlic with salt. Add the pine nuts. After the nuts have been crashed, add the basil leaves little by little. Blend.
Break the cheese into small chunks and put them into blender. Add the olive oil. Blend again until pesto is nice and creamy. Add more salt if needed.
Remember, that the longer you blend the darker the pesto would become as the basil leaves undergo the oxidation process.
Use mortar and pestle if you have one, but a good blender will do the job just as well.
Many people use grated cheese. I prefer to break it into smaller chunks. I also use raw pine nuts, but most recipes will ask you to slightly roast the nuts in a pan. While roasting nuts makes them more aromatic, it also alters the molecular structure of the fatty acids making them less beneficial to health.
You may add some freshly ground pepper, although the original Ligurian recipe does not ask for any.
Enjoy your pesto with freshly cooked pasta or on a warm focaccia bread. Buon appetito!
By Dominique Allmon ©2013
P.S. Your pesto will stay fresh for a few days in a refrigerator. Place it in a clean glass jar. Pour some olive oil to cover it up. This will prevent it from spoiling. Close tightly with a well fitting lid.