When you’re in your own kitchen, personal preference dominates, and standards are taken with a grain of salt – which is why cooking for yourself can be so pleasurable. The more and more I become used to making foods from scratch – croutons, dressing, pancakes, bread, curry sauce, you name it – the more I find myself identifying precisely how I like something prepared. Croutons? Salty and browned, but still a bit chewy on the inside. Pancakes? With a little extra sugar in the batter, to compensate for the fact that I rarely add syrup. And pesto? Without the pine nuts. This glaring omission really makes the sauce a pistou, but – as stated above – my kitchen, my rules, and I still call it pesto.
It’s not that I have anything against pine nuts, I promise, it’s just that I am rather addicted to the spiciness of the garlic, the freshness of the basil, the richness of the olive oil, and the saltiness of the… er… salt. So in my kitchen, when I’m at the helm, I omit the tear-shaped seeds. Also, in my kitchen, I think it’s borderline insane to pound with a mortar and pestle something that can be so easily whizzed in the food processor, so I do that too.
My plan for tonight was to make the pesto and then toss it with noodles – with the end goal of devouring a steaming bowl of pasta, but I returned from a (very fun, don’t-do-it-enough, thoroughly enjoyable) happy hour with my sister a bit later than I had planned. My son and husband had already eaten (leftovers), and although I still had the ounce of energy it took to pick the leaves from the basil and smash a couple of cloves of garlic, boiling noodles seemed unecessary, and the lure of the vibrant green sauce too great. In the end, I spread it on some bread, topped with with some shaved parmesan, ate it standing at the counter, and declared it a mid-week feast.
Pesto (sans pine nuts)
I wavered on providing a recipe for this one, as there are so many things that impact the final product – personal preference, the potency of the garlic, the freshness of the basil… Consider the quantities below more of a guideline.
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 cups loosely packed basil leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 15(ish) turns freshly ground pepper (1/4 teaspoon maybe?)
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
Toss the garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until minced. Add the basil, salt and pepper. Pulse until basil is roughly chopped. While food processor is running, add olive oil in a steady stream. Once you’ve added about 1/4 of a cup, check the consistency. Continue adding olive oil and checking consistency of the sauce until you see liquid in the bowl – but the basil shouldn’t be swimming in oil. Store, refrigerated, for up to a week. To avoid discoloration, film the top of the pesto with olive oil.