Lemon Basil Pesto

This is my herb pot. I couldn't fit all the herbs into my herb garden, so there are a few pots of herbs in the front garden. This picture was taken after planting on 6-10-10; the pot has a Creeping Rosemary, Lemon Basil, Genovese Basil, and Italian Parsley. At some point last week I realized that the Lemon Basil was trying to flower, and the parsley wasn't very far behind. My Mom never quite knows what to do with the more unique herbs that I grow, so the catch-all solution seems to be pesto.

This is what I started with; mostly Lemon Basil, a little Genovese Basil, and 4 or 5 sprigs of Parsley. After removing all the stems and bug-eaten leaves, I had approximately 2 cups of leaves. My parents just got a food processor, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. It did a pretty good job, but if you like smooth pesto, I'd recommend doing a larger quantity. I prefer slightly chunky pesto, and the texture is nearly perfect for me. Normally, I chop everything by hand, then put a little at a time into our 2 cup food processor. The flavor is good though. I've heard that making the heat from food processor blades can generate enough heat to wilt the basil and cause pesto to lose a lot of flavour.
The recipe I use can be found here. I only use this recipe for quantities, though. I completely change the directions. Here's what I do:
  1. If I remember, I toast the pine nuts lightly.  My how-to link seems to have vanished, but basically you just throw them in a small fry pan over medium heat. Keep them moving so they don't burn. They should be toasted in under 10 minutes, if I remember right. They will give off a sweet aroma, and start to brown. Just don't over-toast (burn) them! 
  2. Next wash the Basil (or other herb/green) and remove all the stems. This is the fun, messy part. Start chopping! Chop into the tiniest bits possible. 
  3. Chop your garlic. Or use a garlic press. I prefer chopping - I learned this from watching the Food Network - sprinkle a little salt on your garlic (about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon) then start chopping/smooshing with knife that has a wide blade. The salt helps break the garlic down, and I think it draws more flavor out of the garlic. It doesn't have to be minuscule since it will be processed further in the next step.
  4. In your food processor, combine the pine nuts, cheese, garlic, and enough oil to make a thick paste. At this point, you want to get the pine nuts and garlic to the size you want them to be in your finished pesto. 
  5. Alternately add more oil and basil leaves. Because the processor I usually use only holds two cups, I have to add about 1/3 cup of leaves at a time. Don't run the processor for long amounts of time, just pulse until things break down. Once all the basil is in, you can run it for a bit longer, just until the desired consistency is reached. 
  6. Enjoy your pesto, or freeze it. I freeze mine in saran-lined ice cube trays. Once the 'pesto cubes' are frozen, I just slide them right out and store them in a freezer safe zip top bag. Be sure to label your bag!

I have also made Radish Leaf Pesto, Zucchini Pesto (best slathered on chicken!), Garlic Scape Pesto, and Cilantro Pesto. I'm not sure where I got the Cilantro Pest recipe from - I may have used this one and simply substituted Cilantro for Basil. Googling produces many yummy-looking recipes as well.

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