If I had to pick a scent that screams summer, it would be the aroma of fresh basil. I use this fragrant summer herb, straight from the garden, as an unexpected pop of flavor in sandwiches and salads, sprinkled on pizza and eggs and of course as the star ingredient in pesto. Needless to say, I’m basil obsessed. Our garden is gifting us with gorgeous basil plants this year so it’s pesto time. Pesto is a fabulous way to use up lots of basil at one time. Use pesto as a topping for grilled fish, burgers or chicken, tossed with warm pasta or add it to scrambled eggs for a light, summer meal.
Garden Fresh Pesto
5 cups fresh basil leaves (no stems, pressed into a measuring cup)
1/2 cup walnuts
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine basil, walnuts and garlic in a food processor. Process until finely minced, using a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the oil until the mixture is smooth. Add the cheese and process for a few pulses, just to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add more olive oil if the pesto is too thick. Store pesto in an airtight container, top it with a little bit of olive oil and keep it in the refrigerator. If you want to freeze the pesto, don’t add the cheese. You can stir the cheese into the pesto after the pesto defrosts.
Note: Pesto originated in Genoa, Italy, and is traditionally made with a mortar and pestle, not a food processor. There are many varieties of pesto ranging from parsley, arugula, spinach to sun-dried tomato. Traditional pesto recipes call for pine nuts but I prefer to use walnuts because I always have them in my freezer and they add a nice dose of omega-3 fatty acids.
Nutrition Note: Basil is considered a dark leafy green and it is rich in antioxidant compounds called flavonoids. It’s also considered to have antibacterial properties from the volatile oils within the basil leaves. A ½ cup of basil provides 98% of your daily requirement for vitamin K.