When the basil begins to come in growing in my kitchen garden, I know summer is truly here, but also that summer is winding down. Cool August mornings, hot days and I notice that the light shifts. When I wake up it’s not as light as it was. It is not long before the weather is cool enough in the mornings to get a small fire started in the cook stove.
Fresh basil, tomatoes – I love this time of year. It really doesn’t get much better than that and I could eat them every day during their short season. I make pesto each year, using this thick and tasty mixture all throughout the winter on pasta or a spoon full in a hearty minestrone soup or tomato based stew. The heat of this summer has given me one of the largest crops I’ve had yet – I have so much more than I need. I could be processing basil leaves every day for a week!
I used to make my pesto traditionally with pine nuts and parmesan but this year, I’ve omitted the cheese, I can always grate fresh cheese on top when I’m serving. I used walnuts instead which give the pesto a deep rich flavour. Pesto stores well in the freezer. I use small containers no larger than 250 ml or pour it into ice cube containers popping them into plastic bags or vacuum seal after they are frozen. I promise you, this is a wonderful way to keep summer locked up until you are ready to unleash it into your kitchen.
Recipe for Walnut Basil Pesto
4 cups packed basil leaves washed and dried
4 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 cup cold pressed virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
Toast the walnuts lightly in a pan over medium heat just until you begin to smell the earthy aroma of the nuts.
In a food processor, blend the walnuts, 1/2 the basil, garlic and salt. Add in the oil in a steady stream. Add the remaining basil and blend well until the mixture is smooth. Add more or less oil as needed. Spoon or pour into containers and freeze right away. Sometimes the herbs will grow dark on the surface – I do not worry about that – you can give the mixture a quick stir before putting it into the freezer. Make sure to leave enough for a pasta pesto for dinner accompanied by fresh tomatoes, a dollop of olive oil and torn basil leaves and a glass of wine.