Whereas a few weeks ago I was still careful not to over-harvest my basil plants, I now find that I have so much basil that it is difficult to use it at the rate in which it grows.
A little jar of imported pesto is a frequent purchase of ours in the winter months. Now that I have a steady supply of basil, I can make small batches of pesto and freeze them to use in future months.
This pesto recipe is anything but traditional. Instead of the usual Genovese basil, I used the lemon variety in my garden. In place of walnuts or pine nuts, I used cashews that I had on hand, and instead of parmesan, I experimented with a pungent vintage white cheddar (I found the flavor quite similar to parmesan). Despite the stray from tradition, the flavor was quite tame and made a great addition to our insalata caprese and margherita pizza earlier in the week.
When making pesto at home, it is wise to use what you can in one day and freeze the rest. Without the proper food preservation methods, the combination of garlic and olive oil sitting in a container (even if refrigerated) can cause serious illness if consumed. For convenience, freeze small, separate servings of pesto and use within six months.
3 1/2 – 4 cups basil leaves
1/2 cup cashew nuts
3/4 cup vintage white cheddar
2/3 cup good quality olive oil
1 small head of garlic (6-7 cloves)
Sea salt and cracked pepper, optional
In a food processor, pulse the cashews and garlic until they take on a minced texture. Add the basil and cheese and pulse while slowly adding the olive oil. If needed, use a spoon to scrap down the sides of the food processor. When a smooth consistency is reached, taste for pepper and salt (I find that salt is not needed due to the cheese). Use the pesto within a day; freeze any remaining pesto. Add your pesto to pasta, sandwiches, pizza, salad dressing, crackers, soups, or anything that you deem fit.