Holy Basil, Batman!!

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Okay, so I was on a mission to make my annual pesto for the freezer and got a little over ambitious. I was up to my eyeballs in basil. Time for some preservation!

Pesto is, by definition, a sauce originating in Genoa of Northern Italy, made of crushed basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano. My definition: a handful of herbs, any allium (garlic/onion variation you like), nuts of your preference, salt, pepper and cheese (dry/strong flavor!). Any variation will do. Make use of all of those beautiful herbs from Groundswell!
Pesto freezes beautifully, so you will have a delicious spread for sandwiches (egg, grilled cheese, any meat) and sauce for pasta, all winter long. Another great way to get your summer-flavor-fix in the dead of winter!

Here are a few thoughts to keep in mind:
– Preservation is best done when produce is freshly picked and at its peak. You have no doubt noticed that there is a limited window of opportunity for some of your favorites (garlic scapes, strawberries, etc). Produce at the market this week will be gone the next, so don’t put off “putting it up” (lingo for canning or preserving fresh produce)!

– I make sure to buy extra garlic and herbs to make about 8-10 jars of pesto; 9 that go right into the freezer and the 10th we eat right away, slathering it on anything stiff enough to take a slathering. However, if you aren’t stockpiling, you can pretty much use the weekly herbs you choose at the pickup, and along with some nuts, cheese and oil you have the makings of a pesto for a fresh veggie/pasta dinner. See Jane’s post from week 4 for a garlic scape recipe and my recipe below for some additional variations.

– Remember, this is about preserving your CSA loot, so be as creative and adapt as needed to make what you have work. Taste as you go, you will be amazed at how impossible it is to make a bad tasting pesto!

– Lastly, one year I completely forgot to throw in my grated cheese and froze the whole batch. A week later when digging around in the fridge, I realized that I never added the cheese. Too late. But, no worries, you can just toss in handfuls of cheese when you pull it out of the fridge and use it in your recipe. See, it really is idiot proof!!

General Pesto Ratio:
1/2 cup pignolis (pine nuts, which can be purchased in large quantity at Costco, or smaller quantities at places like Russo’s)
9 cloves or garlic, or 6-10 garlic scapes (again, don’t get too caught up in the exact quantities, use what you have on hand)
5-6 cups or fresh herbs (you can do the traditional basil, or do combinations of basil, parsley, thyme and oregano, whatever you like)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cup good olive oil
1 cup of any sharp, dry cheese, grated (use the food processor if you want to speed up the job)
Additional add-ons I have tried and really enjoyed: pistachios, walnuts, lemon juice, hot peppers, and kale

Place the nuts and garlic in the food processor and process for 30 seconds. Add the herbs, salt and pepper process again till the herbs have been chopped down. Slowly pour in the oil, and process until the pesto is the consistency that you enjoy. Finally, add the cheese and pulse a few times to mix it in. Pack it in small jars so you can pull out one jar at a time for meals. Make sure to label the jars with the date and what herb combination you used. Some will go better with fish or a sandwich than others!

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A couple last tips:
– If you enjoy berries in smoothies or for cobblers or pies in the winter, you can easily freeze them for later use. Simply wash, gently spin dry in your salad spinner and lay out on cookie sheets. Put them in your freezer overnight and pack in freezer grade containers/bags and label with the year. I do this with strawberries, cherries and blueberries. The cherries need to be pitted, which can be done easily with a pitter (tool found at D&W, Meijer, etc). We really enjoy the cherries and blueberries straight from the freezer on a hot day. They are sweet little nuggets of cool fruitiness, and a whole lot healthier than popsicles!!

– I also find it very beneficial to stash eight to ten homemade quiche in the freezer as well (I will post more about that in my next week to do the blog, which will be the week of July 21st). I start making them in July and continue thru the end of September. They are a great way to use up excess veggies, cooked down. Just throw in any cheese or cooked meat on hand and you have a meal completed. When I have guests in over the holidays, I pull out the quiche from the freezer at night and the next morning I simply slip it in the oven and pull out some fruit and turn on the coffee machine. Breakfast is served!

Have fun with those veggies, folks! See you in a week.
Lisa McLean

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This entry was posted in Arugula, basil, freezing, garlic, green onion, Oregano, parsley, Preserving!, scapes and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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