Monday, December 17, 2007

Mischa's pesto recipe

Simon and Ariel had a housewarming party, and I decided to make pesto. I love the stuff and it's vegetarian-friendly, which is a plus if you're not sure of a guest list. It uses cheese, so no love for the vegans here. (As you no doubt know, I love Frank Sinatra brand pesto sauce.)

What goes in my pesto? Basil. Garlic. Crushed red pepper. Black pepper. Lemon juice. Romano cheese. Pine nuts. Olive oil. In this batch, I added Asiago cheese, walnuts, sea salt, plus the secret ingredient: one packet of Splenda, I kid you not.

Whenever I cook, I do so in a very gestalt, organic fashion. I don't really follow a recipe from a book, but I will look at what others have done and extrapolate amounts and quantities and proportions. I taste my product constantly. One downside to the back apartment is that my mise is tiny- I've got barely a square yard to prep and measure and hold the food processor.

I bought four packets of fresh basil (one day, an herb garden). I started with two: wash in cold water, pick off the leaves, and toss the stems. Toss into the food processor.

Take a bulb of garlic. Peel it. Put all of the cloves into the processor. Chop. Add a bit of olive oil (Never don't cook with extra virgin olive oil. NEVER EVER, no matter what.) and blend a bit- ride the throttle and pulse, don't just whale it to "on." Pick out the whole chunks of garlic that didn't get food processed and just mince them. Re-add your freshly minced garlic.

Throw in some crushed red pepper, then a bit more because when you make it, you won't use enough. Slice a lemon in half, squeeze some juice in. Pick out the seeds. Put the other half in the fridge, but keep your squeezable half handy- you'll use it frequently. Grab a small handful of pine nuts, and process. Do this again: EVOO, lemon, small handful of pine nuts. Now add a small handful of walnuts, and remember the cheese.

Cut your Romano into thirds. Take the first third and run it through the processor. Add your third pack of basil leaves (no stems, rinse 'em), adding EVOO and lemon. If you have fresh ground black pepper, grind it into the mixture, otherwise use regular black pepper. Add more, because you won't use enough. Then throw in more crushed red pepper, another small handful of pine nuts, and more lemon. Skip the EVOO this go. Process in waves.

Grab your sea salt and put in a little bit- but not too much. Chances are that your sea salt has large grains and won't dissolve or get crushed easily. So: sprinkle, pulse, sprinkle, pulse, sprinkle. You do not want to add too much salt.

Remember your middle third of Romano? Grate that into the mix. Might as well add half your Asiago, too. You want to get your crumbles of cheese all throughout the mixture.

Take your last bunch of basil and add its leaves with a bit more lemon and pine nuts. Process a little bit to mix things up, and tap in your packet of Splenda while spinning.

You can put this into the fridge for a good while- at least a few days. About an hour before you serve, pull it out of the fridge and let it get to room temperature. Take a healthy spoonful of EVOO and stir, do it again and probably a third time to get to the right consistency. Finally, drizzle a bit more olive oil on top- the first bite is taken with the eye.

This method sounds a bit insane, but it works. The method behind the madness is to avoid homogeneity in your pesto. You want layers of flavors and textures. One day, I shall make pesto like an Italian grandmother. Someone find me a quality cooking board and mezzaluna!


Pete the Brit said...

man I didn't expect you to be a cook :) I've printed out this entry and will make it sometime!

Marjorie said...

Yes, the pesto was amazing! The absolute bet I've ever had! OMG, I'm salivating...