Basil Pesto + Crostini Appetizer

Have you ever stopped to smell the amazing fragrant aroma of sweet basil?  For the Italians, it is the king of herbs.  For the Lebanese, aside from using it with our cheese, deli, and vegetable & herb platters (to be shown in a future post), we plant it outside our front doors and run our hands through it on the way in and on the way out.  Then we smell that amazing scent for the next few hours.  These days, every time I smell that intoxicating scent, I am taken back through time to my childhood, where I would run my fingers through those beautiful fragrant leaves …

BASIL PESTO

6 cups sweet basil leaves
2 large Garlic cloves
1/3 cup toasted Pine Nuts
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Lemon juice
1 tablespoon Salt
1 teaspoon black Pepper freshly ground

Toast the raw pine nuts in a wide pan over low heat, as they tend to burn very easily.  Do not add any oil or butter to them.  Put the basil leaves, garlic, toasted pine nuts, salt, and pepper in a food processor.  Pulse it until everything is chopped finely.  Drizzle in the olive oil, then add the lemon juice.  Take the pesto out of the food processor and put in a bowl.  Gently stir in the grated Parmesan cheese.  You may use Asiago for a nuttier flavor or Pecorino Romano* for a sharper cheese flavor.

*Pecorino Romano is a very salty, yet delicious sheep’s milk cheese.  Should you choose to use it in this recipe, please omit the salt.  Only salt the pesto to your liking AFTER you have added the cheese and tasted it.

It would be noteworthy to mention that traditional pesto is made in a mortar and pestle.  However, for convenience’s sake, I use the food processor; it is much faster.  You may enjoy this freshly made basil pesto on pasta, bread, as a dip,or as a condiment in a sandwich / panini.  If you are not going to consume it within a couple of days, top it off with extra virgin olive oil to cover it, then leave it in the fridge.  It will keep for up to 2 weeks.  You may always freeze it to be used as a marinade much later.

CROSTINI – Bruschetta*

1 pint cherry Tomatoes
2 cups Basil Pesto
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive OilSalt and Pepper to taste

Mix the sliced tomatoes, basil pesto, and olive oil together in a bowl.  Season to taste.  Serve it with gently toasted crostinis.  When I made it last, I kept the crostinis and the tomato basil pesto mixture separate to keep the slightly toasted bread from being soggy.  And since we had some friends over for brunch, this deviation from the traditional bruschetta made the meal a bit more interactive.

*Bruschetta is a crostini topped with tomato, garlic, basil, olive oil, and of course, salt & pepper.


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