My pesto recipe changes like the wind. So, rather than give you a firm recipe, I will give you wiggle room to make your pesto as you like it
I’m sure I was a summer athlete for a reason. There isn’t anything about the season that I don’t love. Seriously, the warmth of the sun, the gorgeous colours bursting everywhere you look, water asking to be played in, scrumptious fresh meals made from the garden or local farmers market … all of this brings me joy.
I am an outdoor girl, always have been. So, when it comes to making meals in the summer, simplicity is key. I would rather spend my time in the great outdoors versus being cooped up in the kitchen pouring my energy into extravagant menus. I’m thinking if a meal takes longer than 30 minutes from idea to table then I’m not making it. I’m sure I’m not alone in this philosophy.
Over the years, I have gathered a few recipes that have become staples in our summer repertoire. You know the ones. You could literally make them in your sleep, and it could change slightly every time, depending on what you have on hand. My dad was famous for this in our household. For him, it was his meatloaf recipe. From one time to the next there was always a variation, but with the same dependable satiety satisfaction. Jill Searle, one of my closest friends, once asked my dad for his recipe, and with a chuckle he said he really didn’t know what to tell her. The conversation may have gone something like this, “Well, start with hamburger, add a little of this or that, or whatever you think.” Hard to replicate, to say the least.
In my kitchen, in summer, pesto is that recipe for me. When I am stuck for an idea, I just whip up a batch of pesto sauce and add it to anything. It goes brilliantly with pasta, a nice base or topping for pizza, a lovely colourful drizzle for butternut squash, or it could even take the place of a salad dressing if you so choose. The first summer we lived in River John, we had a bumper crop of basil in our garden. I remember making pesto practically every other day. At the end of season, I didn’t want to see the basil go to waste, so of course I made a massive amount of pesto to freeze, which we enjoyed throughout the winter. However, I may have gone too far. By spring, when my husband saw me pulling the pesto out of the freezer, he begged me to stop. Lesson learned. Only plant half of what you think you need; basil is a plant that keeps giving.
Like my dad’s meatloaf, my pesto recipe changes like the wind. So, rather than give you a firm recipe, I will give you wiggle room to make your pesto as you like it.
Basic basil pesto ingredients:
• 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
• 2 tbsp lemon juice
• 1 small garlic clove
• 1/2 tsp sea salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• 2 cups basil leaves
• 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more for a smoother pesto
• 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, optional
• 1 tsp white miso paste, optional (but it’s a secret weapon for tastiness)
Replace the basil with one or any combination of the following:
• Mint • Cilantro • Parsley • Spinach • Chives
Replace half the basil with:
• 1 cup arugula • 1 cup baby kale • 4 artichoke hearts • 1 roasted red pepper • 1/2 an avocado
Replace the pine nuts with:
• Walnuts • Pistachios • Almonds • Pecans • Pumpkin Seeds • Hemp Seeds
Variation for something extra, add:
• Nutritional yeast, in place of the Parmesan
• Pinches of red pepper flakes
• 1 charred jalapeño • 2 to 4 sun dried tomatoes
Preheat oven to 350° F. Place pine nuts on a baking sheet and lightly toast (approximately eight minutes). Remove from the oven and add to a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Then, add all other ingredients. Process everything until smooth.
Note: If using walnuts, remove from oven and place in strainer. Rub walnuts against strainer (over the sink or compost) to loosen some of the skins. Whatever readily comes off is enough. Remove walnuts from the strainer and add to the food processor.