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[P]
Zen and the Sweet Basil

By mybostinks in Culture
Sat May 26, 2007 at 12:00:00 PM EST
Tags: cuisine, food, the culinary farts (all tags)
Food

Pesto's simplicity is its elegance. This elegance hasn't changed for centuries. For those that like the simple pleasures that make life seem like a reasonable alternative, the making of pesto will take you there. It does not matter where you live or how you live it is possible to make (from scratch) this delicate sauce. I will describe how to make the sauce that has managed to survive from antiquity to the present. The ingredients are as ancient as the sauce itself.


The Foundation
The best foundation for pesto is fresh basil (Ocimum basilicum). Without fresh basil this is hardly worth doing and you may as well buy it off the shelf. The best way to insure magnificent pesto is to grow your own sweet basil. Finding good, fresh basil is hard to do. Growing it is easy and a simple pleasure.

To begin plant your seedlings in sunlight, fertilize it on a regular basis and then harvest the leaves. They are best when grown outdoors but they can also be grown as potted plants.

If you grow them outdoors plant them in the sunniest spot in your garden as possible. If you are growing them as potted plants make sure they are in the sunniest spot possible. In either case, you should grow at least a half dozen plants and fertilize them approximately every other week.

At some point, you will be growing more basil than you can consume. When or if this happens you can harvest your basil and then air dry them (not in the sunlight) then store them for later. Dried basil in pesto is slightly inferior to your fresh picked basil but still far superior than any pesto you can purchase at the store.

If you live in a climate where you have long sustained hard freezes, you should make cuttings, root them, pot them before the first hard freeze and keep them going through the winter. Then in the Spring set them outside in your garden. Doing it this way allows you to enjoy pesto year round, especially on long winter nights.

In any case, basil is easy to grow unless destroying houseplants is second nature to you. For some this is indeed the case.

Harvesting Basil
Harvesting basil is easy. When the leaves grow to approximately 2 to 3 inches (4 to 5 centimeters) pinch them off with your fingers and lay them to the side. The aroma from the freshly pinched basil is something that cannot be described. When you have approximately 2 to 3 handfuls of FRESH basil you are close to having enough basil for two cups of fresh basil. You will need 1 cup per plate of pasta.

Pine Seeds
The next essential ingredient you need are pinyon pine nuts. You can substitute pinyon pine with cashews, peanuts or walnuts. However, doing this makes pesto begin to taste like something else. Doing so would be considered inferior to classic pesto.

To make pesto the right way you should go out and pick your own pine nuts. Where I live this is "easily" done. I say this tongue-in-cheek because picking pine nuts from the wild can often be an adventure. It can be time and labor intensive. I can go up into the Davis Mountains of far West Texas and pick the pine nuts from the Mexican pinyon pines that grow there. I don't recommend this since it is a pain in the ass. In case you still want to do this, you can use the pine seeds of just about any pinyon pine. Growing your own is not an option for obvious reasons. Pinyon pines take decades before they are big enough to produce enough seed to be of any use to you.

Not all is lost however, excellent pinyon pine nuts are easily purchased at a supermarket or specialty food store. They can also be ordered from the Internet and I have had good experiences purchasing them this way.

Garlic
At the supermarket pick out the youngest, most fresh garlic you can. Old somewhat dried out garlic is bitter and not fit to consume. Don't be tempted to use it. Garlic should be firm, aromatic and have a "bite" to it. Soft garlic should be discarded.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
If there is one ingredient that is essential but would cause flame wars on the magnitude of a super nova it is olive oil. In fact, an article on olive oil alone could be written. In the U.S., there are four grades as defined by the USDA. In Europe the grades are determined by the IOOC. Using an inferior olive oil will ruin the taste of your handcrafted pesto. Without going into the fine points of the different grades of olive oil there are, it is safe to say that you should buy the most expensive Extra Virgin Olive oil you can find.

Parmesan cheese
For Americans... DO NOT USE Parmesan cheese that comes in a green can. This cannot be stressed enough as it will ruin everything. Grated, canned Parmesan cheese is terrible and smells like an athlete's jock strap after an athletic event. Do your taste buds a favor and purchase REAL Parmesan cheese from the counter where real cheese is sold. Then grate it yourself. You will be amazed at the flavor difference.

This then are the main ingredients for pesto alla genovese. You are now ready for the kitchen. Below are instructions to making the best pesto alla genovese you have ever tasted; a delight for the tongue.

Pesto Alla Genovese
Here is the pesto recipe that I use. Keep in mind that your mileage may vary.

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Olive oil
3 tablespoons pine nuts or walnuts
3 garlic cloves, finely minced

Place basil leaves in small batches in food processor and whip until well chopped (do about 3/4 cup at a time). Add about 1/3 the nuts and garlic, blend again.

Add about 1/3 of the Parmesan cheese; blend while slowly adding about 1/3 of the olive oil, stopping to scrape down sides of container.

Process the basil pesto until it forms a thick smooth paste. Repeat until all ingredients are used, mix all batches together well. Serve over pasta.

Basil pesto keeps in refrigerator one week, or freeze for a few months.

Contemplate over a plate of noodles topped with pesto alla genovese and enjoy.

NOTE:
A Special thanks to sausalito for this comment and the excellent suggestions.
Thanks also to horny smurf for his suggestion about the Parmesan cheese. I had neglected and overlooked this.

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Display: Sort:
Zen and the Sweet Basil | 87 comments (48 topical, 39 editorial, 1 hidden)
Perhaps slightly off topic (1.45 / 11) (#1)
by uid 71137 on Sat May 26, 2007 at 02:45:56 PM EST

But I need pornography. At the moment, I'm mostly into regular nude photos of the innocent kind, like Femjoy, Met-Art and such. The problem is, of course, getting hold of large quantities of pictures without paying anything. In other words, I need recommendations for sites that commit mass copyright infringement. The Pirate Bay isn't very efficient. Any recommendations?

If you had clicked on my links (none / 1) (#2)
by mybostinks on Sat May 26, 2007 at 02:48:18 PM EST

in the article you would have found TONS of pr0n!

[ Parent ]
you need one of those sites that takes requests (1.33 / 3) (#21)
by livus on Sat May 26, 2007 at 11:15:13 PM EST

for backdoors.

---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]
You're not helping, livus. (none / 1) (#34)
by uid 71137 on Sun May 27, 2007 at 07:43:39 AM EST



[ Parent ]
oh I'm majorly out of the loop these days (none / 1) (#40)
by livus on Sun May 27, 2007 at 07:05:13 PM EST

they all had names revolving around precious metals, as I recall. Surely someone who has kept up to date around here will be able to help.

---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]
empornium.us (2.25 / 4) (#37)
by rolf roffleson on Sun May 27, 2007 at 05:24:51 PM EST

puretna.com


<ni> Jesus, you're like some mythological personification of the concept of asinine.
[ Parent ]
fuck empornium (none / 1) (#69)
by rhiannon on Mon May 28, 2007 at 02:19:08 PM EST

cheggit.net

-----------------------------------------
I continued to rebuff the advances... so many advances... of so many attractive women. -MC
[ Parent ]
puretna.com is nice (none / 1) (#70)
by uid 71137 on Mon May 28, 2007 at 07:23:24 PM EST

Thanks.

[ Parent ]
Usenet (none / 1) (#39)
by b1t r0t on Sun May 27, 2007 at 06:34:46 PM EST

alt.binaries.pictures.*

-- Indymedia: the fanfiction.net of journalism.
[ Parent ]
Excellent sauce article. One of my friends (3.00 / 3) (#5)
by dakini on Sat May 26, 2007 at 04:32:11 PM EST

grows basil in her garden so I will have to give her this recipe. We have plenty of pine nuts, but not sure if they can be used. They are called JackPine up here? Anyway, one small edit: "When or if this happens you can harvest your [leave] and then air dry-" is that to be leaf or leaves? Thanks again for the excellent article.

" May your vision be clear, your heart strong, and may you always follow your dreams."
when this goes to vote (3.00 / 4) (#13)
by livus on Sat May 26, 2007 at 10:28:18 PM EST

can you tell your friend Agavero to lay off the dupe voting, please?

It's getting a bit annoying.

---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]

Huh?? (none / 1) (#22)
by dakini on Sat May 26, 2007 at 11:24:04 PM EST



" May your vision be clear, your heart strong, and may you always follow your dreams."
[ Parent ]
Quite simple (none / 1) (#23)
by livus on Sat May 26, 2007 at 11:56:10 PM EST

You and Agavero know each other.

Agavero is a dupe voter. She controls the Mexican Dupe Army, as we have been discussing.  

Since you know her, presumably you can be the voice of reason and persuade her to stop doing this.

---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]

No problem livus. I will. But I will also tell (none / 1) (#24)
by dakini on Sun May 27, 2007 at 12:26:33 AM EST

you right now, that the list he has there is out of whack. They are not all dupes.It's just to bad that all the other dupes around here, pull their shit also. It's been going on since long before I came on to K5.  I could make a list of others and their dupes also, but I have better things to do.

" May your vision be clear, your heart strong, and may you always follow your dreams."
[ Parent ]
Also, there will no longer be an agavero or (none / 1) (#25)
by dakini on Sun May 27, 2007 at 12:29:57 AM EST

any of the others. I am no longer working with any of them.

" May your vision be clear, your heart strong, and may you always follow your dreams."
[ Parent ]
You don't have better things to do and I would (1.50 / 2) (#33)
by Sir Digby Cream of Sum Yung Gai on Sun May 27, 2007 at 04:27:51 AM EST

love to see this list.

[ Parent ]
http://k5pm.firetree.net/1296 n (none / 0) (#43)
by livus on Sun May 27, 2007 at 09:23:57 PM EST



---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]
http://k5pm.firetree.net/1297 (none / 1) (#64)
by Sir Digby Cream of Sum Yung Gai on Mon May 28, 2007 at 05:12:05 AM EST



[ Parent ]
http://k5pm.firetree.net/1298 n (none / 1) (#65)
by livus on Mon May 28, 2007 at 07:43:15 AM EST



---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]
Message from my 95 y.o. granma Gianna (3.00 / 22) (#8)
by sausalito on Sat May 26, 2007 at 07:50:36 PM EST

(Jo-Anne - born and bred in Genoa - I read the article to her and this is what she said to me - translated).

Dear sir,

Your pesto recipe is good but there are several additional things which I regard as quite important to get the best pesto:

  1. Olive Oil: good quality (expensive) olive oil has low acidity. Indeed, a low-acidity olive is very important for a good pesto. However, you also have to say that ideal olive oil for pesto is light and fruity, like the oil produced in Liguria (the region around Genoa) and Tuscany - good for salads, fish and pesto. The oil from Greece and Southern Italy (Apulia, Sicily...) has stronger - almost spicy - flavour, is more green-yellow than gold-yellow and is especially indicated for meat and tomato-based sauces. Spanish oil can be of either qualities - taste it and look at the colour to find the most appropriate Spanish oil to use for pesto.

  2. Goat Cheese: the Italians use goat cheese in addition to Parmesan cheese. Actually in Italy most people use mainly goat-cheese and only a little Parmesan. This will result is a more creamy and tasty sauce. I know American and English people usually leave it out, obtaining a more liquid, lighter pesto. I don't know why as I consider goat-cheese important to get a better pesto. The French do it like us.

  3. Food processor: "pesto" is the past participle of "pestare" (= to crush). This is because the pesto ingredients are usually put together in a stone mortar, with oil added in the end. The food processor will chop the basil and pine nuts in small pieces, not crush them. If you have it, use a stone mortar. It will result in a better pesto.

  4. Preservation: I preserve the pesto in glass jars for the winter with bain-marie: put the jars (lid screwed lightly) in water, heat the water, leave them simmering for one hour, then take them out and screw the lid tightly. Once opened, you can preserve the pesto by adding a little film of oil on the top of the sauce. This will isolate the pesto from the air, maintaining its colour and flavour. When air comes in contact with the pesto for a prolonged time, the basil will go darker green and the sauce will be spoiled.

_____________

GBH - "The whole point is that the App Store acts as a firewall between busy soccer moms and goatse links"

+3 excellent advice (3.00 / 5) (#11)
by livus on Sat May 26, 2007 at 10:26:53 PM EST

I usually make some pesto withut cheese to freeze in small bags for the winter months, but Gianna method seems better.

I agree on quality and type of oil too. Olive oils are not created equal.

---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]

This is the way the Internet should be. (3.00 / 8) (#67)
by OzJuggler on Mon May 28, 2007 at 09:46:18 AM EST

Capture ancient knowledge. Disseminate it throughout the world at the speed of light. Let no wisdom die.

-OzJuggler.

[ Parent ]

I agree completely /nt (3.00 / 2) (#68)
by mybostinks on Mon May 28, 2007 at 09:56:03 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Oops translation error! (3.00 / 2) (#71)
by sausalito on Mon May 28, 2007 at 07:56:33 PM EST

I wrote goat-cheese when in fact I should have translated "pecorino" with sheep-cheese.
_____________

GBH - "The whole point is that the App Store acts as a firewall between busy soccer moms and goatse links"
[ Parent ]

even better but... (none / 1) (#72)
by mybostinks on Mon May 28, 2007 at 08:20:47 PM EST

can you get sheep cheese commercially?

[ Parent ]
Grocery stores (none / 1) (#74)
by adamjaskie on Mon May 28, 2007 at 09:42:37 PM EST

I've purchased Pecorino Romano in regular grocery stores here in South-east Michigan. I have to go to specialty stores in middle-of-nowhere upper peninsula, though.

[ Parent ]
depends what you mean by "you" (none / 1) (#75)
by livus on Mon May 28, 2007 at 09:43:36 PM EST

mileage is varying on the cheese front. I can, and  I bet the EUians can even more, but whether you can is another matter.

Ugh.

Pity our cheese discussion became hidden, really.

---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]

hidden? (none / 1) (#76)
by mybostinks on Mon May 28, 2007 at 10:36:10 PM EST

what are you talking about?

[ Parent ]
Editorial comments (none / 1) (#77)
by livus on Tue May 29, 2007 at 08:53:52 PM EST

I guess you didn't see it but here  we were talking about cheese.

---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]
Oh they are not exactly hidden (1.50 / 1) (#78)
by JuanDimensional on Tue May 29, 2007 at 09:18:40 PM EST

you can adjust that by going to:
Comment Preferences

and where it says: Types of comments to display:

click on the down arrow and select all.

[ Parent ]

ahem. Thanks (none / 1) (#79)
by livus on Tue May 29, 2007 at 09:42:07 PM EST

after all this time. Doh.

Hmm there are probably a few other things I could get round to changing.

---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]

noes, really? (none / 0) (#73)
by livus on Mon May 28, 2007 at 09:41:50 PM EST

Hmmm.

---
HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]
Never though of storing it for so long (none / 0) (#82)
by MartiCode on Mon Jun 18, 2007 at 12:48:32 PM EST

Come think of it, the supermarket sells pesto-in-a-bottle with long shelf life, so I guess there's no reason we couldn't do it at home.

--
{ Cooking blog | French Restaurants Guide }
[ Parent ]
Your simile begs the question (2.60 / 5) (#26)
by MichaelCrawford on Sun May 27, 2007 at 12:34:21 AM EST

smells like an athlete's jock strap after an athletic event

How do you know what a used jock strap smells like?


Looking for some free songs?


Mybostinks: It appears that inquiring minds would (none / 1) (#30)
by Another Hope on Sun May 27, 2007 at 01:08:45 AM EST

like to know!

[ Parent ]
Perhaps he was an athlete? $ (none / 0) (#36)
by Scott Robinson on Sun May 27, 2007 at 04:16:43 PM EST



[ Parent ]
He's an athletic supporter % (3.00 / 3) (#42)
by ClaimJumper on Sun May 27, 2007 at 09:15:52 PM EST



[ Parent ]
This man is obviously a connoisseur (3.00 / 4) (#62)
by spooked on Mon May 28, 2007 at 02:13:48 AM EST

of the finer things in life.

Seriously.
[ Parent ]
Food? (3.00 / 3) (#35)
by PrinceSausage on Sun May 27, 2007 at 02:55:05 PM EST

+1 FP

Extra Virgin Olive oil (2.33 / 6) (#63)
by IHCOYC on Mon May 28, 2007 at 02:47:38 AM EST

This expression always confounds me. What do those European heathens do to olives that makes some olive oil "Extra Virgin", others just "Virgin"; and presumably some others "Able to pass as Virgin", and finally, "definitely not Virgin."
--
"Complecti antecessores tuos in spelæis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
"Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit G
Here you go... (3.00 / 5) (#66)
by mirleid on Mon May 28, 2007 at 08:34:53 AM EST

Retail grades in IOOC member nations Since IOOC standards are complex, the labels in stores (except in the U.S.) clearly show an oil's grade:
  • Extra-virgin olive oil comes from the first pressing of the olives, contains no more than 0.8% acidity, and is judged to have a superior taste. There can be no refined oil in extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Virgin olive oil has an acidity less than 2%, and judged to have a good taste. There can be no refined oil in virgin olive oil.
  • Olive oil is a blend of virgin oil and refined virgin oil, containing at most 1% acidity. It commonly lacks a strong flavor.
  • Olive-pomace oil is a blend of refined pomace olive oil and possibly some virgin oil. It is fit for consumption, but it may not be called olive oil. Olive-pomace oil is rarely found in a grocery store; it is often used for certain kinds of cooking in restaurants.
  • Lampante oil is olive oil not used for consumption; lampante comes from olive oil's ancient use as fuel in oil-burning lamps. Lampante oil is mostly used in the industrial market.
Source.

Chickens don't give milk
[ Parent ]
You forgot to define pomace \\ (none / 1) (#81)
by rpresser on Wed Jun 06, 2007 at 02:59:31 PM EST


------------
"In terms of both hyperbolic overreaching and eventual wrongness, the Permanent [Republican] Majority has set a new, and truly difficult to beat, standard." --rusty
[ Parent ]
Um (none / 1) (#80)
by trhurler on Fri Jun 01, 2007 at 07:50:32 PM EST

Actually, all Parmesan smells horrible - it just tastes good. And pesto is nasty, btw, as is most anything with olive oil as a main ingredient. Gee, I want something oily and kind of nasty in that respect, but I don't want it to have any FLAVOR! This particular culinary preference completely confounds me. You might as well consume canola oil straight.

Also, the easily purchased minced garlic in jars is quite good if you get it reasonably fresh. Saves a lot of work.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

Romano all the way (none / 0) (#86)
by koyfish on Thu Sep 27, 2007 at 10:38:45 PM EST

I've developed a preference for Romano over Parmesan for pretty much all applications. They are similar in texture, but Romano is clearly the superior cheese in my opinion. I feel the same way about blue cheese versus Gorgonzola. I was a blue cheese addict (tried several different brands) until I tasted good Gorgonzola. I realized that Gorgonzola had all the flavor with a much creamier, richer texture. A Gorgonzola burger is to die for.



[ Parent ]
Hey (none / 0) (#83)
by wji on Wed Jun 20, 2007 at 09:33:57 AM EST

I should have called you on this before, but what the hell does "x's simplicity is its elegance" mean? If pesto's simplicity wasn't it's elegance, how would you know? Saying "its elegance is its simplicity" would have been a little clichéd, but at least it would have made sense.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
Well... (none / 1) (#84)
by mybostinks on Wed Jun 20, 2007 at 07:42:56 PM EST

I wrote:
Pesto's simplicity is its elegance.

So ... Its state or instance of being simple is its tasteful opulence in form, decoration or presentation.

But maybe it would have better been said:
It's elegance is its simplicity.

[ Parent ]

My variations (none / 0) (#85)
by hondo77 on Thu Jul 19, 2007 at 03:56:07 PM EST

FWIW, here are my variations from the given recipe:

Toast the pine nuts.  I toast mine in a wok. Makes a huge difference in taste.  Give it a try.

Try other nuts in addition to pine nuts.  I love hazelnuts (I don't toast those).

Blanch the basil, otherwise the leaves oxidize and turn dark green.  Not as pretty as blanched basil.

Personally, I'm not fond of cheese in the pesto (makes it harder to work with) so I grate parmesan on top of the finished dish.

I haven't tried freezing pesto.  I like eating it so much while basil is in season that by the time I can't find it anymore (try farmers' markets, folks), I'm pretty much done with it. Then by the time it comes back in season I've had several months of anticipation.

Thanks for the article!

About buying Parmesan (none / 0) (#87)
by koyfish on Thu Sep 27, 2007 at 10:44:46 PM EST

Many people when buying fresh Parmesan to grate tend to pick the worst piece, because they don't understand Parmesan. They tend to avoid the pieces that have pitting, but these are actually the better pieces. Also, if you're a Romano fan like me, try using Romano instead of Parmesan.



Zen and the Sweet Basil | 87 comments (48 topical, 39 editorial, 1 hidden)
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