Sunday, April 19, 2009

Spinach Pesto

Spinach Pesto
The basil isn't ready to harvest yet, but I have a craving for pesto so I made spinach pesto, a wonderful substitute which can be made even in the dead of winter.

Spinach Pesto

Chop in the food processor 2-3 cloves of garlic and 1/3 cup (50 g) of toasted almonds (I was out of pine nuts but they work too).
The blended nuts and garlic
Add 1/2 cup (57 g) of grated Parmesan cheese and slowly add 1/4 cup (60 ml) of olive oil (most people use more but I like a thicker pesto and I add pasta water to thin it if I use it on pasta). At the end add the spinach leaves (or basil or parsley or cilantro or arugula or a mixture) and chop the mixture in the food processor.
Adding the spinach

 It takes about 2 1/2 cups of leaves. Finally add salt and pepper to taste.
The finished pesto
If you are using the pesto for pasta save some of the hot pasta water to thin the sauce. There are all kinds of uses for pesto. It is amazing on steak. Pesto sandwiches are one of summers great treats (fresh summer tomatoes between good bread smeared with pesto). I love putting pesto in my tomato sauces; it adds amazing flavor to a traditional sauce. I love pesto on fish and shrimp. It also makes a great sauce for pasta salad.

Last Saturday we went to the Sand Springs Herb Festival. It was a wonderful mix of food, plants, people, and dogs. I bought multiple types of basil-- sweet, African blue, Caesar, lime, lemon, purple, and Greek columnar. Basil is one of my favorite culinary herbs. Basil is originally native to Iran, Indian and tropical parts of Asia where it has been cultivated for 5,000 years. I was first introduced to basil in Italian foods but now I look forward to eating basil in some wonderful Asian dishes as well.
Spring Flowers in our Yard
A Perfect Spot for an Herb Garden
Sweet basil is used in Italian foods and has an clove scent because it contains the chemical eugenol (which is the same chemical as is found in cloves). The Caesar basil is slightly milder and I will use it with the sweet basil to make pestos. The lemon basil has a strong lemon scent and is popular in Indonesia (where it is called kemangi). The lemon and lime basil contain a chemical called citral which provides its scent. The African blue basil is one of the most cold-hardy of the basil plants. It has a camphor scent from the chemicals camphor and camphene. It does not go to seed, it is propagated by cuttings. The young leaves have a wonderfully mild taste. Purple basil has wonderful mild scent. Here is a link to what sounds like a wonderful recipe using purple basil: (Lobster tagliolini with purple basil). I think the purple basil has a spicier taste than sweet basil. Plus it is a beautiful addition to the garden. Greek columnar basil gets its name because it grows three to four feet tall but only ten inches wide, so it resembles a column. It has a stronger scent and taste than sweet basil with a hint of cinnamon and allspice. It is also referred to as Aussie Sweetie. The picture above (the triangle of dirt surrounded by monkey grass) is our new herb garden. As of today its home to big bunches of basil.

Our First Rose this Spring
I also bought several tomato plants, eight lavender plants, leeks, Japanese eggplant, pineapple mint, orange mint, ajwain, wild zanter oregano, oregano thyme, rosemary, society garlic, and a variety of lettuces. Later on this spring/summer I will be harvesting and making recipes with them.

It will take a lot of work to turn this into a garden

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