Monday, April 09, 2007

Pesto Genovese

Easter weekend. A gooses egg, quail eggs, more bacon, and Pesto Genovese.

We fried up two eggs on Saturday. A giant, heartstoppingly big, blood clottingly giant goose egg, which took up most of the frying pan. Delivered to Dublin in the gentle care of the gorgeous C.

It took up most of my frying pan. Two thick slices of country batch sacrificed as cholestorol soldiers. As it were.

Delicious. It tasted incredibly fresh.

On Sunday, I whipped up another batch of homemade bacon, this one made with juniper berries. I'll report back later in the week when it's cured.

But this afternoon. I made one of my most beloved foods. Pesto Genovese. On the left, a young basil plant. For traditional Genovese, the plant should be less than 8 inches high. After a certain point of growth, the taste of the leaf changes, losing that almost electric sense of freshness the young plant has, and becoming a more mellow, and softer taste, that most of us are used to. Any older than this and it is not actually a Genovese pesto.

The only way to ensure this is to grow your own. Something I should do a lot more often. Garlic - as fresh as possible. The garlic used in pesto is raw, and the other ingredients are quite subtle to taste. So ensure that your garlic has no green shoots, is fresh, and still moist. Bitter garlic will run through your pesto and ruin it. Tear off as many leaves as you can safely harvest. I took about half the leaves from this plant.

Pine nuts, lightly toasted. There are a couple of ways to do this. I normally put some in my omelette pan and put them on the stovetop. Take them off the heat as soon as they even begin to hint turning brown - they will cook some more off the heat. Tip them into a cool container, and wait until they cool down. Extra virgin olive oil. The best you can buy. Pamesan - ungrated - and as good as you can get (or Pecorino) . Again, I recommend Best of Italy on Dunville Ave, D6 for Parmesan. Sea salt crystals, unground.

For this batch I used, roughly
  • a half teaspoon, level, of seasalt

  • half the pictured basil plants leaves

  • two small, fresh, cloves of garlic, cut into rough chunks

  • about 4 level tablespoons of parmesan, freshly grated

  • about the same of toasted pine nuts

  • enough extra virgin olive oil to cover the mix when ground

Put the salt crystals in the base of a stone or marble pestle and mortar. Whole crystals help grind down the other ingredients. Add everything else, apart from the cheese and olive oil. Grind in a pestle and mortar. It must be a pestle and mortar. Not a food processor. Far too much of the taste and texture gets lost in the heat and violence of a processor. The difference is very noticeable (cheap stone pestle and mortars are available from the Asia market, at the back of Georges Street in Dublin). It takes about ten minutes to get that rustic texture. (below)

Add the cheese, and mix in. Then top up with olive oil until the paste is just submerged in oil. Leave for four hours on a table top, covered with a plate. Uncover, taste - you may need to add salt - and top up with olive oil as required.

Its best kept until the next day, and eaten on open sandiches, or dipped with fresh foccacia, or ciabatta. It's good with fresh pasta - don't cook it at all, or the taste will evaporate, just mix in on the plate with roasted cherry tomatoes and some oil.

If covered with oil, this will keep in the fridge for a lot longer than it takes to eat it. The colour of the leaves will darken and change, but its fine to eat, the taste deepening over time.

It tastes like summer.

If anyone out there actually understands how to edit images in bloggers editing software, without actually causing ones head to explode, please leave a comment.

Failing that, help me track down the bizarre and atavistically twisted freak who designed it.


lorraine said...

Pesto looks great, nothing like the home-made version. Fair play for doing it in the pestle and morter! It's hard work. Love the site, I must add you as a link!!!

Abulafia said...

Pleasure to be linked by you. Your pollo e pronto looks delicious.

And the new to me knowledge that Superquinn sell clams is going to change my life.