After spending the first 18 years of my life in Florida where it is gorgeous and warm almost year round, I have a deep appreciation for the seasons we have in Tennessee. While I do sometimes envy my parents’ backyard that continuously remains lush and green, I find that the first flowers of spring are so much more exciting after a cold and colorless winter. I get so excited with the first cold snap of fall, the changing of the leaves and putting up a pumpkin display in the yard. And even my thin Florida blood enjoys a good snow, wearing warm cozy sweaters, sipping hot cocoa and sledding down the big hill in our backyard.
Yet, when the cold winter days drag on and on, I find myself feeling a little homesick for the warm sunshine. I’ve found that the best medicine for the tired-of-winter-blues is to cook something delicious and oh so reminiscent of summer. Maybe some fresh ravioli tossed with some pungent and vibrant homemade basil pesto.
Mmmm. But basil doesn’t exactly thrive in 20 degree weather. This is where a little thinking ahead is helpful. A couple of times during the summer, I like to make a big batch of pesto and freeze it. Here’s how it’s done.
Half Pint helped me pick the basil this time. And do a little quality control.
Pick about three cups of basil. I put it straight into my OXO Salad Spinner, because it’s going to need a good washin’!
Next, gather up your remaining ingredients. You’ll need 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of almonds, 3-5 cloves of fresh garlic (please please please use fresh and not that minced garlic that comes in a jar!), coarse sea salt and freshly cracked pepper. Now, if you’re a connoisseur of pesto, you might be asking, “Almonds? Why not pine nuts?” Yes, pine nuts are the traditional ingredient, but walnuts and almonds work beautifully and they are a whole lot cheaper. Honestly, I prefer almonds over pine nuts.
Next, dump all those lovely ingredients into your food processor. A blender will work, but you might need to chop up your garlic first to make sure you don’t end up with any large chunks.
Lick the bowl, just for fun.
Turn on your food processor and let it run until all ingredients are nicely blended.
Take a quick taste to make sure the saltiness is on point.
Finally, I like to spoon the fresh pesto into ice cube trays and freeze. These tiny cubes are perfect for adding to a cream sauce or using as a base for some scrumptious chicken pesto pizza. And, once they have frozen, you can dump them out into a gallon sized ziplock bags and free them up for your next batch.
So, if you have an abundance of fresh basil in your garden, please don’t let it die with the first frost. Go harvest all that summery goodness and save it up for a cold and dreary winter day. You’ll be glad you did!
- 3 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup almonds (or pine nuts)
- 3-5 cloves fresh garlic
- 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
- coarse sea salt, to taste
- Rinse and dry basil leaves.
- Add all ingredients to food processor and blend until smooth.
- Serve immediately or freeze to enjoy later.