Thursday, November 5, 2009

Hey presto pesto

Basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow here in Trinidad. And there are lots of places where you can find little basil plants - Agriflora in El Socorro, the plant shop on the highway, the plant shop by Chaconia Inn in Maraval. It can handle a lot of sun, but you mustn't let it go to seed. Anytime you see it start flowering, cut the flowers (gosh, that sounds brutal!). It also likes to be pruned often. I never pick individual leaves, but cut the stem just above new leaf growth, that way the plant continues to sprout. (I'm not sure that I'm using the correct horticultural terms her, but, you know what I mean!)

I love having fresh basil in the kitchen. I put it in salads, pasta sauces and in Thai food. I like the combination of basil, shaddo beni and fresh mint in a salad. And I especially love fresh pesto. So here's my latest successful version. (If you can find it, it's best to use parmesan cheese off the wedge rather than the pre-grated/ shredded kind. Hi-lo has Sargento parmesan wedges, and that works just fine in the pesto.)

So you'll need the following things (and a blender):

half a cup of olive oil (or you can mix olive oil and regular vegetable oil)
about 1 and a half ounces of parmesan cheese
a handful of nuts (either pine nuts, walnuts or pecans. I tried almonds once but they aren't flavourful enough to compete with the basil.)
4 fat cloves of garlic
half a teaspoon of sea salt
more basil than you can imagine - I reckon about 40 or 50 leaves

Put the olive oil in the blender first - followed by cheese, garlic, nuts and salt. Once those are nice and smooth (or a little chunky if you like) start adding the basil slowly, say ten leaves at a time until all the basil is in there. Keep blending until you've got a pesto.

You can use your pesto on pasta (I would reckon about one heaping tablespoon of pesto per person) or in salad dressings or sauces.

To store it in the fridge, put the pesto in a clean jar, and pour enough olive oil over it to cover it completely. And there you go!


  1. Well, it's too late for the basil (which was, admittedly, papesy), but I have a bumper crop of flat-leaf parsley that isn't going to last much further into November when the real frost hits. I'm going to try a parsley pesto.

  2. Damn good idea picking the tops off. Why didn't I think of that. Will save time over standing there every week inspecting the plant for flowers. But I always just go for the big leaves. LOL

  3. Put the oil first? Sacrilege! You're supposed to drizzle the oil in a thin stream at the end--or so they say. I'm yet to make my own pesto, though I keep meaning to.

    And yes, those Sargento wedges are the bomb.

  4. BTW, I can do you one better than the Sargento wedges. Check this out:
    It's changed my life.