Tag Archives: basil

Pesto Cubes

1 Sep

We’ve had a lot of rain this summer, and while that has been terrible for a lot of produce, it has been terrific for my herbs.  I have tons of herbs and have been adding them into just about every dish we eat.  But now that cooler nights are getting closer, I’m worried about what it will do to my basil.  Basil is a tender herb and is super sensitive to cold weather.  So, before the basil reaches its impending demise, I want to save as much as I can for use throughout the winter.

My favorite way to save basil is in pesto cubes.  This is the best way I’ve found to retain much of the fresh flavor that usually is reserved for the summer growing season.  My recipe for pesto is a basic one – basil leaves, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper – finely chopped and frozen into individual cubes.  Traditionally, most recipes include parmesan and toasted pine nuts – I leave them out due to allergies, then add them back in later on individual servings if I decide to use them.  I consider these to be the base for many recipes – here’s how I use them:
1. One cube per person (assume that for all the suggestions below)
2. If you’re going to serve pasta, cook the pasta, drain it, and add a cube to the pan.  The warm pasta will melt the cube, then stir and serve.
3. After steaming veggies, add a cube of pesto to the top, cover, and stir just before serving.  The steam provides a quick way to melt the pesto.
4. After cooking shrimp or chicken in a pan, reduce heat to low and add a pesto cube.  Stir and serve.
5. Melt a few cubes in the microwave and spread on top of flatout flat bread for a pizza base (in this case, you’ll want more than one cube per serving).
6. Set at room temperature for a few hours to thaw, then mix with cream cheese for a really delicious topping for a bagel or to use as a sandwich spread.
7. Throw into a batch of mashed potatoes.
8. Add toasted pine nuts and grated parmesan, serve on top of diced tomatoes and zucchini for a flavorful side.

Pesto Cubes
Serves: 6

2 c. fresh basil leaves, lightly packed
4 cloves garlic (or two large cloves), quartered
2 T. olive oil
1 t. kosher salt
20 turns freshly ground black pepper

Place half of basil and all of the remaining ingredients in a food processor.  Pulse until reduced, then add remaining basil (in batches if necessary).  Pulse just until no large bits remain.

Spoon into an ice-cube tray, approximately 1-1/2 to 2 T. per cube.  Place in freezer and freeze overnight.  Remove each cube and place in a ziplock bag or freezer container.  To help avoid freezer burn, wrap in waxed paper or tinfoil before placing in the container.

Estimated Calories:  45 cal/serving

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There are two things I use a lot in the kitchen, and especially when I make pesto – I love them, and I think you might too. 

Garlic Peeler: Basically a rubber (or maybe silicone) tube that makes peeling garlic a breeze.  Simply place the garlic clove in the tube then roll it on a flat surface pressing down with your hand.  With a tap on the countertop, the clove rolls out and leaves the garlic paper behind.  So slick.  They can be found at all kinds of kitchen stores, and here.

Stainless Steel Soap: After making anything with garlic, the smell can stick around on your hands for a while.  This stainless bar of soap works scent-removing miracles simply by using it to wash your hands as if it were an actual lathering bar of soap.  Run your hands under water and wash your hands with this bar, and the scent GOES AWAY.  Also, it feels like you’re “playing washing hands” because it is weird to wash up without any lather, but dude it works.   Also found at kitchen stores, and here.

Deep Green Pesto

15 Aug

A few years ago, my friend Jessy came for a visit and brought me pizza as a gift.  I was so excited to eat it, I barely waited until she was out the door before I started warming the oven.  For days after her visit, I daydreamed about the delicious pesto topping, the mixture of caramelized onions and sun-dried tomatoes, the rich goat cheese.  I wanted more, and Moose & Sadie’s, the restaurant where she worked at the time, was too far for me to just stop in to get some.  So, with the memory of delicious pizza firmly in my memory, I set out to recreate the pizza.  The results were delicious, but there was one terrific benefit I had not anticipated – the deep green pesto turned out to be a versatile way to add rich flavor to lots of things.  Plus, it has the added bonus of giving me another way to consume a large quantity of vitamin rich dark leafy greens without feeling like I was on the rabbit fast-track.

Deep green pesto uses a combination of basil and a dark leafy green.  I’ve tried this recipe with both spinach and kale, and have decided that while I liked the spinach version, I preferred the kale.  In order to lighten it up and make it Sophie friendly (no nuts or dairy), I’ve left out the parmesan and pine nuts that might be traditionally used in a pesto. 

There are lots of ways to put this pesto to good use (calories vary based on other ingredients, duh):
1. Pizza: Make your favorite (or buy your favorite) crust, spread a layer of deep green pesto, top with caramelized onions, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and goat cheese.  Bake and devour.
2. Baked Quesadilla: Consider this loosely named.  Using Flat-out flatbread or large tortilla, spread a layer of pesto on one half, add some caramelized onions, goat cheese, fold over and bake.  Cut into fourths, top with diced tomatoes and drizzle with balsamic.  Devour this one too.
3. Mashed Potatoes: Stir a healthy scoop of pesto into mashed potatoes.  Taste often, then serve whatever is left to your family (assuming they’ll eat GREEN).

Deep Green Pesto
Serves: 4

8 oz. spinach or kale (stems removed from kale)
1/4 c. fresh basil
1 T. lemon juice
½ t. kosher salt
15 turns freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic (or 1/3 c. garlic scapes)
1 T. water
2 T. olive oil

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, quickly blanch greens for 1-2 minutes then drain and transfer to ice water. After cooled, drain and set aside.

In a food processor, add greens and all remaining ingredients until smoothed and well combined.

Estimated Calories:  76 cal/serving

Print it: Deep Green Pesto