I keep saying it: 2020 won’t quit. I had a burst of creativity (and extra time) about 6 months ago, and started to get weeks ahead on the blog– the posts were looking great, right? Well, on top of all the new developments this year, we are still settling into the new place. I haven’t had that much time (at all) to come up with new stuff! Luckily, the changing weather gave me an easy idea to get back on track this morning. Fun fact: I grow about 80% of the fresh herbs I use on the blog–basically everything other than parsley and cilantro. Our apartments over the years have always had good sun exposure, so it’s been easy. The new house though? Lots of shade, and the basil started to wilt as soon as the light levels and temperatures dropped. Time to cut it all down, and turn it into something better, right? It’s now or never.
I started with about 3 cups of basil, a handful of oregano, and enough arugula to fill the rest of the blender. Other mediterranean herbs like rosemary, and thyme work well here too, but I’m saving those for a little later in the season. Otherwise, more of my usual tricks: instead of pine nuts, I used sunflower seeds (because they are cheaper), and again substituted hard parmesan for the traditional pecorino cheese. Mix in olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice, season to taste, and pulse in a blender to get the texture you like. Don’t overheat the basil and the olive oil, or the pesto will get bitter! If you have the patience, use a mortar and pestle instead.
You’ll want fresh herbs to to comprise the majority of this, but feel free to add a teaspoon of dried herbs to– in fact, that may even expand your possibilities even farther. I don’t have fresh tarragon, marjoram, or sage–but I might have some dried! Dried herbs’ flavor is more concentrated, so you won’t need much to add extra depth.
This stuff goes well with everything, and this exact combination is flexible across a lot of different ingredients. I’ve made pesto, chermoula, tapenade, and gremolata with only slight variations in ingredients. It’s not a stretch to whip up chimichurri either–once you get a feel for it. It all depends on what’s available at the time.
Well, that’s all I have for this week. Think of it as a hybrid between a normal post, and one of The Basics. If you’re in the Southeast, you might still have a week or two to get your fresh basil in before the first frost, but I find that the woodier herbs grow best around now. You’ll see soon enough–I’m sure I’ll be back up and running before long!
2-3 Cups Fresh Basil
2 Cups Arugula
1 Cup Fresh Oregano/Rosemary/Parsley (your choice)
1 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Sunflower Seeds, shelled
1/2 Cup Grated Pecorino or Parmesan Cheese
1/4 Cup Lemon Juice
2 Cloves of Garlic, minced
Salt, Pepper and Dried Herbs to taste
- Rinse your herbs as needed, pat dry, then set aside. Add sunflower seeds, olive oil, garlic, and cheese to the blender or mortar. Pulse until a paste forms.
- Thin the paste with lemon juice, then add fresh herbs and arugula, then pulse until fully blended.
- Season to taste, and adjust the thickness/texture as needed. Additional cheese/seeds for thickness and more herbs for color, and flavor.
- Transfer excess to a clean jar, and seal under a thin layer of oil. Store in the fridge for up to 1 week.