I know the title of this post might make some people think that I'm not human, but the truth is that the full cup of walnut pesto we made the other day was gone within 24 hours. We also recently had some Nutella hanging around, since Colm occasionally makes crepes on Sunday mornings. The jar of Nutella, less than a cup, lasted over two weeks.
It's true: I eat pesto straight from the jar. I love it. Not the store-bought stuff, but real, home made pesto. The difference is huge. Actually, let me make that really clear: home made pesto is a million times better (and somewhat cheaper) than store-bought varities. I haven't made my own pesto for nearly a year - probably not since the last time basil was in season. I had forgotten the massive difference between the stuff from the store, made with cheaper ingredients and probably containing preservatives, and the stuff you make at home. I had forgotten the sweet sharpness of raw garlic, how bright the taste of fresh basil is, the tang of the parmesan (or lemon). I made it right before dinner on Wednesday, and we each mixed a big spoonful into our soup. The next morning, I put some of it on a salad that I was taking to work. Colm took the rest of the soup with another big spoon of pesto. When I arrived home in the afternoon, I spread it on oatcakes with goat's cheese as a snack. Then Colm came home and saw how quickly it was disappearing, so he had to have it on rye crackers. And that was it. Done. Gone.
Maybe, if we have this stuff around all the time, then we'll adjust and regain some self-control and civility. It's worth a shot. But before that happens, maybe you should make some yourself so that we can be in good company. It only takes a few minutes to make, walnuts are far more affordable than pine nuts these days (at least they are in England), and they're rich in omega 3 fats. Basil is a green leaf, and green leaves are always good for you, unless they're rhubarb leaves.
If you don't eat dairy, you can use a bit of lemon zest and juice, to taste, in place of the parmesan. This is a trick I learned from Peter Berley's books, and it works really well: the sour, bright taste of lemon replaces the sour taste of cheese. There are thousands of ways to make pesto: with different nuts, vegetables, herbs and spices, so feel free to play around. It's also very easy to make, and involves no cooking. I'm sure that stirring it into mayonnaise would be amazing. On artichokes. Mmmmm.
note: 1 cup = approximately 235 ml, 1/3 cup = 80 ml
1 generous cup of chopped basil leaves, packed lightly
1/2 cup or a bit more of roughly chopped walnuts
1/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese (or 1 - 2 tsp. lemon zest and 2 TBS fresh squeezed lemon juice - this is a guess, so taste as you go if using lemon)
3 small or 2 medium garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, to taste
good quality extra virgin olive oil, about 1/4 - 1/3 cup - enough to create a paste-like consistency and to cover the top for storing
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the basil, walnuts, garlic, cheese or lemon and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Begin to blend on a low speed and as it's blending, slowly drizzle in a thin stream of olive oil. Continue to blend and drizzle until the pesto is coming together into a paste. Pause and scrape down the sides of the mixer. Adjust the salt if you need to.
If you're happy with the consistency, then stop here. Or, add more olive oil as needed and blend again. I like my pesto thick enough to hold together when used as a spread. Plus, with home-made pesto, you need to put a layer of olive oil over the top to keep it from turning brown (see below), so more oil will go in anyway. Blend for a total of several minutes, making sure all ingredients are well ground.
How to store: Spoon the pesto into a jar with an air-tight lid and pat it down, making sure there are no air bubbles and that the top is flat. Pour a thin layer of olive oil over it and close the jar. The oil will sit on top and keep air out. Refrigerate. I prefer a jar that is tall and thin rather than wide and flat so that I don't need as much oil.
Now you have some delicious pesto. The self-control part is up to you. Good luck!