This guy I knew in college started a blog called “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” (and it must work ‘cause he also went on to publish a NYT best seller of the same name). I thought maybe I should call this blog “I will teach you to eat rich” (despite my tendency toward vegetables over cheese and butter). See, a lot of my college classmates have gone on to do pretty monumental or notable ventures, like launch major Silicon-Valley tech companies, become the youngest person at the State Department, release top rated apps, star on prominent sitcoms, and so on and so on. Sometimes I have an existential crisis and question my whole reason for being. How is it that I was at the same place as all of these commercially successful classmates just 10 short years ago? How come I didn’t get in on the Google IPO? Have I been wasting my efforts leading an average life? As my 10 year reunion approaches, I feel this all the more acutely. What will have to show for my 10 years out of undergrad? Without launching too much into a sidebar on the meaning of life, I am, upon reflection, able to grasp a glimpse of what is really important to me. It’s not, fortunately or unfortunately, founding a Fortune 500 company. Or even turning this blog into a Saveur Top 10 winner. I wish I could say that I am able to hold onto this vision all the time, though it proves to be a bit harder than that. For me my success is measured in the quality of the company I am privileged to spend my days with, the giggles shared with toddling two year olds, creating with my hands from scratch in the garden, on paper, or in the kitchen, and leaving a kind, positive mark on the immediate world around me.
So in the spirit of living rich, enjoy some fresh pesto tonight!
Fresh pesto comes loaded with this forbidden lore to me, like a taboo of over indulgence. That said, I probably eat pesto three times a week. It’s just that when I was young we only had (store-bought) pesto on special occasions, since it was so expensive. The truth is if you buy basil in the height of summer when it is exploding out of gardens, at farmer’s markets, or even at the grocery store, you can make your own (much more delicious pesto) for not too much $$.
The key is: spring for the pine nuts. They cost some ungodly amount per pound, but once they are lightly toasted they add this amazing buttery nutty flavor to the basil (and everything else since I practically include them in every meal). I also say spring for the good, aged Parmesan, but now the cheap homemade pesto is getting not quite so cheap. Buy the basil bulk, in-season, and as many other quality add-ons as fit your budget.
Homemade Basil Pesto
3ish cups basil (leaves only)
1/3-1/2 cup grated Parmesan
3 heaping Tbsp pine nuts (lightly toasted)
~1/2 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
2+ cloves garlic (depending on desired taste)
Olive oil until desired consistency ¼-⅓ cup
Toast pine nuts and grate cheese and set aside.
Pick leaves off of basil plants. Rinse if non-organic.
Dump basil, cheese, nuts, salt, pepper and garlic in a food processor (or a blender would probably work too) and pulse until all are broken down.
Scrape down sides and replace lid.
With the blade running, slowly drizzle in olive oil.
If it doesn’t taste delicious, it’s not done. Keep adding cheese, salt (but watch out, the cheese is also salty), oil, etc until you like the flavor.
There’s no way to “mess up” fresh basil, delicious Parmesan and buttery pine nuts. It’s going to taste good. Especially in the winter when the only basil to be found in stores costs $8 for 4 ounces or comes on the shelf in a jar labeled ‘Classico”.
I store mine in ice cube trays (give them a quick spray of olive oil Pam to help them pop out later). When I make pasta, I pop a few cubes out, microwave them, and voila! Fresh pesto!