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Pesto Basics

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#31 weinoo

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 01:48 PM


Has anyone tried canning pesto?

Any tips for that if at all possible?

put it in an ice cube tray and freeze it,then pack the cubes in foodsaver vac bags in the freezer till use..
lasts long time
Bud

Freezing works nicely, but leave out the cheese and freeze. Then add the cheese when you're mixing it up with pasta and a bit of hot pasta water.
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#32 qrn

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 02:00 PM



Has anyone tried canning pesto?

Any tips for that if at all possible?

put it in an ice cube tray and freeze it,then pack the cubes in foodsaver vac bags in the freezer till use..
lasts long time
Bud

Freezing works nicely, but leave out the cheese and freeze. Then add the cheese when you're mixing it up with pasta and a bit of hot pasta water.

Good point, I forgot I dont put cheese in mine untill I make the final dish....
Bud

#33 dcarch

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 02:09 PM

Pine nuts - $50.00 a lb.

Sunflower seeds - $2.00 a lb.

You can use almost any other nuts. Tastes just as good.

dcarch

#34 Broken English

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 04:22 PM

I use a mix of slivered almonds and pine nuts, along with basil, lemon juice, garlic, reggiano and salt and pepper. For a really fluoro green colour I switch out half the basil with parsley.

I must be the only one who likes my pesto quite chunky, I like the encapsulated bursts of flavour from the nuts, the basil and the parmigiano. Plus the texture is just better for me.
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#35 lame username

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 04:40 PM

This is my favorite pesto recipe Epicurious pesto. I seem to remember it's from Ruth Reichl, though epicurious doesn't list the author now. At least it has a weight for the cheese. I toast the pine nuts, and if I need the pesto to last and stay green for guests, I'll blanch the basil first. The ratio of ingredients is perfect for my taste.
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#36 Genkinaonna

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Posted 20 August 2011 - 06:41 PM

I made pesto tonight. Here's the proportions I used:

5 oz basil
2 oz roasted pecans (or other nuts, but pecans are what I had tonight, I really like pistachios too. Pine nuts are a no go, my kids will eat the whole bag unless I hide them!)
1/2 oz roasted garlic
2 oz pecorino romano
3 oz olive oil
1 oz butter (unsalted)
.2 oz kosher salt
.15 oz lawrys garlic salt (god help me its just not the same without it)

Into food processor and blend, or into vitamix and blend. Tonight I used the food processor since the vitamix was dirty, but it does emulsify much better in the vitamix. Or you could break out the mortar and pestle, if you're feeling ambitious and don't have three angry children nagging you to hurry up and get dinner on the table... Makes enough to sauce about 2 lbs of pasta. Good stuff. I made two batches and vacuum sealed one for the freezer. Organic basil's stupid expensive off season, and I have a bunch growing in the garden right now, so I figure I should stock up before it starts getting cold out.
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#37 phatj

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 03:37 PM

I use a mix of slivered almonds and pine nuts, along with basil, lemon juice, garlic, reggiano and salt and pepper. For a really fluoro green colour I switch out half the basil with parsley.

I must be the only one who likes my pesto quite chunky, I like the encapsulated bursts of flavour from the nuts, the basil and the parmigiano. Plus the texture is just better for me.

I like a smooth blend except for the pine nuts. I toast them, then chop them coarsely with a knife and stir into the pesto along with shredded parm.

#38 raybeezbabee

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Posted 21 August 2011 - 07:31 PM

I have to say that one of the most beautiful things about restaurant pesto is the obligatory amendments. We don't have too much money so we supplement with walnuts, pecans, supplementary cheeses, etc. Even though it's meant as a cheat, that stray walnut flavor in a pesto is what I love most.

#39 antdad

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 02:13 AM

Earlier in the year when I ws in Liguria I asked a chef at a restaurant how they made their pesto (which was excellent). It was the basic recipe, except they added very little cheese. The basil flavour was really intense, so I wonder if their basil was the key or if the cheese dampens down the basil flavour?


Exactly right, the cheese is for seasoning and good pesto is all about freshness (and please no butter)

If you have to use a processor use it minimally as it generates alot of heat and pre cooks the basil, pestle and mortar is really best as it's relatively gentle and you get better extraction of flavour from leaves by abrasion rather than chopping, you can use a little course salt to help you along.

Authentic Genovese pesto is just that...fresh basil, garlic, good evoo, pine nuts (untoasted) and parmesian for seasoning.

I have no idea why you want to blanch basil, seems counter intuitive.

Edited by antdad, 22 August 2011 - 02:16 AM.


#40 raybeezbabee

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 05:45 AM

Blanching the basil keeps the final product significantly brighter in color and lengthens its shelflife.

#41 lame username

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 07:21 AM

I have no idea why you want to blanch basil, seems counter intuitive.

Blanching the basil keeps the final product significantly brighter in color and lengthens its shelflife.

Yes, indeed. After bringing my lovely pesto to my husband's office party and getting tired of repeating "Ignore the black layer on top, it's just the way it goes", I learned about blanching from Michael Chiarello. Now whenever I'm bringing pesto to a large gathering where it's likely to sit out a while, I blanch the basil first. Perhaps it degrades the flavor slightly, but it's still delicious and looks so much nicer.
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#42 Pierogi

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Posted 22 August 2011 - 10:56 PM


Earlier in the year when I ws in Liguria I asked a chef at a restaurant how they made their pesto (which was excellent). It was the basic recipe, except they added very little cheese. The basil flavour was really intense, so I wonder if their basil was the key or if the cheese dampens down the basil flavour?


Exactly right, the cheese is for seasoning and good pesto is all about freshness (and please no butter)

If you have to use a processor use it minimally as it generates alot of heat and pre cooks the basil, pestle and mortar is really best as it's relatively gentle and you get better extraction of flavour from leaves by abrasion rather than chopping, you can use a little course salt to help you along.

Authentic Genovese pesto is just that...fresh basil, garlic, good evoo, pine nuts (untoasted) and parmesian for seasoning.

I have no idea why you want to blanch basil, seems counter intuitive.

An article in the current (Aug/Sept 2011) "Saveur" magazine explains that in Genoa, they pick only baby basil for the classic Pesto Genovese. The American basil we have access to is much more mature, more bitter, and the leaves are tougher. Even the Genovese suggest blanching American basil for pesto, to mimic the more tender baby basil used in Genoa. Not for long, 30 seconds max, and then into an ice bath, but they say it sets the color and as I said, tenderizes and sweetens the more mature leaves. I'm going to try it on my next batch.
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#43 Kouign Aman

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Posted 23 August 2011 - 03:15 PM

Why leave out the cheese before freezing? In most cases, freezing cheese messes with the texture which in some situations is a bad thing. Why would it be w pesto?
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#44 AAQuesada

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Posted 23 August 2011 - 03:53 PM

It doesn't get much better than this!

http://www.itchefs-g...667&Itemid=1033

Although I admit to not getting my ingredients from exotic locations, just good local stuff. Usually I use a mild spanish olive oil or a 50/50 blend not to over power the basil.

#45 antdad

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Posted 24 August 2011 - 10:41 AM

Why leave out the cheese before freezing? In most cases, freezing cheese messes with the texture which in some situations is a bad thing. Why would it be w pesto?


As well as changing texture freezing parmesian or pecorino just makes it insipid, it loses much of its pungency and flavour. I've wasted a pound or two doing that.

In response to the pre blanching basil, try using a m&p when making a small quantity even if you don't have access to the finest young Genovese basil, if the leaves are tough strip them of their stalks.

Now I'm playing devils advocate a little so don't get offended because I'm never going to blanch my basil (it's different) however it's clear the oxidation process is augmented and accelerated by the mere act of using a food processor. To counter that it's been recommended that one blanch and ice to preserve (cooked) then food process(cooked again) then cook the poor herb again when you finally add it to pasta.

So a usually delicate fragrant herb is effectively cooked three times?

#46 Kouign Aman

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Posted 24 August 2011 - 10:52 AM

Hmmm - I'm going to have to freeze some parmesan and test that 'loss of pungency' theory, because on the face of it, it doesnt make sense. However, bumblebees dont make sense either, as someone (judiu?) pointed out elsewhere, so its worth my taking time to check.

thanks for the reply.
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#47 LindaK

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Posted 24 August 2011 - 06:34 PM

Hmmm - I'm going to have to freeze some parmesan and test that 'loss of pungency' theory, because on the face of it, it doesnt make sense. However, bumblebees dont make sense either, as someone (judiu?) pointed out elsewhere, so its worth my taking time to check.

thanks for the reply.


After many years of freezing pesto, I stand behind the advice to freeze it without the cheese. Huge flavor difference. And no extra effort required--you have to grate before freezing or afterwards. Absolutely worth waiting.

It makes sense to me. Maybe freezing a big chunk of parmesan works well, but once it's grated, that's a lot of exposed surface area.


 


#48 ScoopKW

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Posted 24 August 2011 - 09:14 PM

I blanch the basil as well. I make the pesto sans cheese as well. Then I freeze in small amounts varying from a cups worth to an ice cubes worth.

When I need pesto, I remove an appropriate amount from the freezer, thaw and add my cheese and a little lemon juice to brighten the flavor. No complaints.

Freezing pesto with the cheese added yielded a gritty, unappealing mush when thawed.
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#49 abooja

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Posted 20 June 2012 - 08:56 AM

I made some pesto yesterday, using the quick blanch-and-shock method and Marcella Hazan's recipe, and it came out great. I left about 20% of the basil leaves out of the blanching water, to preserve their fresh flavor. It's still nice and bright green today. It went quite well with my homemade (gluten-free) gnocchi. Even the husband, who instinctively shuns any food that is green, claimed to enjoy it.

Edited by abooja, 20 June 2012 - 08:56 AM.


#50 OliverB

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Posted 22 June 2012 - 08:35 PM

I didn't read the whole thread, but to me it's a "throw together" kind of thing. Basil, pine nuts, parmesan or other hard cheese, garlic and oil, salt and pepper. Or arugula. Or dandelion. Or watercress. Or walnuts. Or almonds. But always olive oil, garlic, salt. Adjust to taste. Probably would be good w/o the greens too! Add oregano or thyme. Or curry if the rest of dinner allows.
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#51 Syzygies

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Posted 23 December 2012 - 08:54 PM

If anywhere near U Giancu in Rapallo (http://www.ugiancu.it), stop in for pesto, the best I've ever had. Chef Fausto also gives lessons, and is a wonderful character. Their version is with pasta, potato and green beans, a classic combination in Liguria.

With a reference version in mind, one has to go by taste. Pesto comes from both Nice and Genova, from when they were one region predating either France or Italy. The classic Ligurian recipe tends to be lightened with some fresh cheese, for which one can improvise liberally. Fausto has various booklets available from Europe; Ogni Volta Che Cucina calls for "4 bunches of basil; 2 cloves of garlic; 1 tablespoon of pine nuts; a handful of grated parmesan cheese; 5 tablespoons of olive oil; 100 grams of curd cheese; a little coarse salt."

Affordable pine nuts invariably come from China, with a liberal species definition leading to mild poisonings where everything tastes like metal for two weeks. (Google "pine mouth.") Use Italian pine nuts, which taste better, or substitute.

I vividly recall friends in Genova clutching bunches of basil from the market, for pesto. These were infant plants by U.S. standards. They delicately put it to me that pesto from my country tastes like lawn clippings, because of the enormous plants we use. One is supposed to grow the basil from seed, thinning for pesto until the thicket gets too large to use. In the California summer I ring half wine barrel planters with spray misting hose (as used to cool off outside) programmed through our garden irrigation system, to grow pesto basil from seed. We don't eat pesto out of season, though we do freeze basil in oil to make pesto for soupe au pistou.

Ligurians are also pretty adamant about using a mortar and pestle, which has a fundamentally different effect than a food processor. A Thai mortar and pestle (as popularized by Jamie Oliver, for example) is perfect.
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