Instructions: Combine herbs, cheese, garlic and nuts in a food processor. Slowly add the olive oil (you may not need all of it) while the processor is running until the pesto becomes a thick pasty mixture of the right consistency. Add the salt and pepper to taste. Some people get irked by the fact that pesto will oxidize and turn brown when exposed to air, so they store their pesto with a thin layer of olive oil on top. I don't care that much and I freeze most of it anyway, so I usually don't bother.
I've read a lot of recipes that insist that you leave out one or more ingredient in order to freeze pesto. Whatever. I've never had a problem just making it up entirely and freezing it as is. It seems freeze up just fine and thaws just fine too with no noticable decrease in flavor. One of the best tips I received on freezing is to dedicate one ice cube tray to milchig, and freeze pesto in the ice cube tray. Then, pop out the frozen cubes from the ice cube tray and store them in a plastic freezer bag. Each cube is a little more than one tablespoon on average - a very convenient quantity of pesto!
Some notes on ingredients:
Some herbs are both potent and petite, others are mild by comparison. For potent/petite herbs, you make up the bulk of the 2 cups of green herbs with parsley, which is both inexpensive and mild. For example, thyme grows very easily from seed, but the leaves are very tiny and in terms of flavor, they pack a really big punch. Thus, for thyme-based pesto, it's only necessary to use 1/3 to 1/2 of a cup of thyme leaves, filling in the rest of the 2 cups with parsley. You'll be thankful for this too, when you realize what a pain it is to strip the thyme leaves off the woody stems. Fresh rosemary is also very pungent. You wouldn't want to make a rosemary pesto with more than 1/3 to 1/2 of a cup of rosemary or it'd be very overwhelming. Cilantro, on the other hand, makes great pesto, and being relatively mild you don't have to cut it with anything. Sage is also mild, but it tends to be very very expensive - so unless you've got a sage plant in your yard like mine you would probably want to go with a half-cup or so of sage and fill in the rest with parsley. I still cut my sage pesto a bit with parsley so as to not make it really overwhelming, but I'm more generous with the sage - probably 1 cup of sage and 1 cup of parsley or so.
I don't bother to grate my own parmesan. I guess a purist might, but I'm doing this for convenience, and most grocery stores carry nice parmesan that's pre-grated without making you resort to the stuff in the green can. Some recipes also call for pecorino romano cheese in small quantities. This is a much more pungent cheese than parmesan - and for the milder herbs can be a bit overwhelming. But it's worth playing with it a bit if you are making several batches of pesto and want to try something new.
Pine nuts are nice, but exorbitant. If you don't mind dispensing a bit with tradition, walnuts are a nice substitute and are much less expensive. The book recommends toasting them in the toaster-oven or regular oven - just measure them out onto some aluminum foil and put them at 300F for a few minutes - make sure they don't burn! It adds a slightly richer, smoky flavor to the pesto, which is nice.
Back to the main Jewish Cuisine Forum archive page.