Basil Pesto

I need to preface this post with the fact that pesto is my favorite food on the planet. I almost always order something with pesto at restaurants even though I can make it at home in under an hour. I also tend to eat it with everything including bread, crackers, pasta, carrots, other veggies, and even by the spoonful. Yes, it’s bad. But I can only make it fresh for about 3 months during the summer, so I justify it that way. Today, I am going to share my recipe with you. Originally it is from Epicurious, but I like my alterations better.

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Start with fresh basil leaves. Each batch needs 4 packed cups. I grow my own basil plants and am able to make 3 batches of pesto at a time when my plants are full grown and healthy. I usually grow about 10 plants from seed each year. I should also mention that adding in extras like rosemary, mint or parsley, give the pesto different flavors. I usually slightly decrease the amount of basil leaves depending on how much of the other things I add. They can all be blanched as well to break down their woody structure.

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One of the interesting things about this recipe is the blanching of the basil leaves. For some reason, it makes the pesto very smooth and also helps it stay a fresh green color. I boil about half of a pot of water and start blanching. Because basil leaves are slightly fragile, they only need to be in the water for about 10 seconds. I use a slotted spoon to gather the leaves and transfer to my bowl of ice water.

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The pyrex bowl is my ice bowl. The basil leaves go straight into the ice bath and can sit until all four cups have been blanched. At that point I strain them in my colander and let them drip while I prepare the other ingredients. P1050699

Here is the basil after it has drip dried.

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Pine nuts really make this recipe.  I tried making pesto with almonds about a week ago and the texture just wasn’t right. Unfortunately, pine nuts cost a small fortune, so I always get my mom to buy them Open-mouthed smile (Thanks mom!)  Another way to do it is estimate how many batches of pesto you can make and buy them at a bulk foods store to get exactly how much you need (1/2 cup per batch).  As Lizzy and I discovered, pine nuts greatly improve when toasted as well.  I toast them in a frying pan while continually stirring them so they don’t burn. It goes FAST!

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Cheese also makes this recipe delicious. I have found that combining the toasted pine nuts, parmesan cheese and garlic (I LOVE garlic so I add lots) makes it really easy on the food processor once the basil is added.

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This is what it looks like after being pulverized. I should mention that my mom has THE BEST mini food processor ever. It is a Sunbeam Oskar brand and holds about 2 cups, the perfect fit for this pesto recipe. I highly recommend getting a small food processor if you don’t already have one.

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After mixing the garlic, pine nuts and cheese, I add the 1/4 cup of olive oil. The original recipe calls for 3 extra Tbls, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Puree this in with the nut/cheese/garlic mixture.

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Now it’s time to add the blanched basil leaves (and anything else you decided to throw in). I usually add about half of the basil, blend it up and then add the rest. It gives the food processor a little less work to do.

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After roughly mixing it, your pesto should look like this. I like to use a rubber scraper (some people call these spatulas), to get the unmixed ingredients down from the sides of the processor.  I also get anything out of the lid. And then I keep pureeing it.

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When fully mixed, this is what it should look like. Now comes my favorite part: the taste test! At this point some salt and pepper are needed to bring out the flavors. I also sometimes add garlic depending on how it tastes.

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Normally I add about 1/2 tsp of salt and a good dusting of ground pepper.

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I remix, retaste, adjust if necessary and then package it for the freezer. I use small tupperware containers that used to be sippy cups from when my sister and I were younger. For this application I use the flat lids that they came with.

Pesto freezes well and can be stored for up to a year. None of my batches have lasted longer than this though, so I can’t be sure. ENJOY!

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups packed fresh basil leaves, washed well (Packed does not mean squishing them all in to fit. It means grabbing a bunch and stuffing it in a measuring cup to see if, with airspace, it is a around a cup.)
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted until golden
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan (about 1 1/2 ounces)
  • 2-3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Instructions:
    1. Have ready a bowl of ice and cold water. In a saucepan of boiling water blanch basil, a handful at a time, 2-10 seconds, transferring with a slotted spoon to bowl of ice water to stop cooking. Drain basil in a sieve and pat dry.
    2. In a food processor puree garlic, pine nuts and cheese.
    3. Add olive oil and puree.
    4. Add blanched basil and puree.
    5. Taste test!! Add salt and pepper and more garlic if needed.
    6. Package for the fridge or freezer.
    7. ENJOY!
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Blueberry Kuchen

So after the adventures of the lost spring form pan last night, we were finally able to make the blueberry kuchen (Q-ken). The blueberries were a week old but still delicious. We started a little late in the evening, but it was well worth the wait once the kuchen came out of the oven.

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Lizzy and Linda watched and helped me make it 😀

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The ingredients all laid out. This is one of the easiest recipes I’ve made recently. Just seven ingredients (the butter was already in the dough).

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After putting the flour/sugar/cinnamon mixture on top, the kuchen was ready to go in the oven.

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The sugar/flour/cinnamon mixture sinks down and mixes with the blueberry juices. After it comes out of the oven, the remaining 2 cups of blueberries are spread on the top, producing a very nice fresh looking finished top. YUM!

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We put it in the freezer to make it cool down faster so we could eat it, and as soon as the crust was cool we ate small slices! So worth the wait.

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Lizzy and Linda enjoyed trying it and I bet that they make it again soon since Linda has a spring form pan now 🙂

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Here is the recipe, and for those who can’t read it, I will write it out below. Enjoy!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons flour, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 2/3 cup sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, slightly softened
  • 1 Tablespoon white vinegar
  • 5 cups blueberries, divided (3 cups for the inside, 2 cups for the top)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (a little extra is good too!)

Directions:

  1. Mix the 1 cup flour, the salt, and 2 Tbs sugar. Cut in butter until the particles resemble coarse crumbs. (At this point I refrigerated the dough for two hours while I went to the movies and it actually helped me press it into the pan when I got back.)
  2. Sprinkle with vinegar and shape into dough with fingers. Press into loose bottom (spring form pan) 9-inch layer cake pan (I used an 8-in and it was fine) about 1/4 inch thick on the bottom, less thick and 1 inch high around sides.
  3. Add three cups blueberries (These can be the still good, but not as pretty berries).
  4. Mix remaining 2 Tbs flour with 2/3 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Sprinkle over blueberries (Make sure this is even. We were left with some white powder on top of ours).
  5. Bake on lowest rack in preheated 400 degree oven for 50-60 minutes or until crust is well browned and filling bubbles. 
  6. Remove from oven to rack. Sprinkle with remaining 2 cups blueberries. Cool (We did this in the freezer since we wanted to eat it quickly).
  7. Remove rim of pan before cutting.

Nutrition:

  • 8 servings
  • 354 cal per serving
  • 4g protein
  • 59 g carbohydrates
  • 12 g fat
  • 36mg cholestorol with butter (0mg if margarine used)

Please let me know if this was something fun to read and if I should continue doing the food posts while I am in Turkey.

24 Days

Only 24 more days until I leave for Turkey. In that time I have to finish my last two weeks of my internship, make several more batches of pesto from my basil plants, pack, shop for a few more things, bake pies for our pie booth at the county fair, have a going away party with my college friends, see my high school friends, unpack and repack, look over the layouts of the airports I’ll be travelling through so I can get around quicker and not miss my flights, and finally go on a short vacation with my family the week that I leave.

WOW, I don’t know how I’m going to squeeze this all in. But, tonight I am making a blueberry kuchen with one of my best friends. This recipe is older than I am and super delicious. My family has been making it for years and I always look forward to it during the summer. I’m hoping to take lots of pictures and make it my first true food post on my blog. Hopefully I will get an idea of whether or not I should continue trying to post about the amazing food that I will soon be eating.

On another note, I posted in the Koc University (from here on out referred to as KU) Exchange Student Facebook page and asked if there were any other engineering majors in the group. I got one response from a guy in Electrical Engr. I am hoping that I have class with at least a couple exchange students so I can get some various views on engineering outside the U.S.

I can’t wait to actually start posting from Turkey!

Testing out Live Writer

So I got this new blogging program from Windows: Live Writer.  Looks a lot like MS Word which is nice. Hopefully this will make it easier to post things here. I plan on posting at least once per week, and hopefully more. Please subscribe if you want to keep up with my adventures while abroad!Holding the Nobel Prizes at OSU (Linus Pauling's)


Please comment on what you would like to see on this blog!