The other day, Shawn and I packed up homebrews and tasty rice noodles and trotted off to the opening night of the Movies with a View series at the Brooklyn Bridge Park to take in Raising Arizona, one of my favorites, with some awesome friends. Said awesome friends brought a delicious hibiscus-basil, gin-based cocktail and homemade veggie sushi (Garden herbs! CSA cucumbers! Sushi!) and a sweet treat, and, unexpectedly and much to my delight, an herb posey.
These guys have a rather small balcony at the front of their apartment that gets good light and is home to many, many vegetables and herbs and some flowers, too, I think. Any covetousness I could dream of whipping up for that sunny little spot is completely obliterated by awe at how much stuff they have going on there. It is truly impressive. I love their commitment to container gardening, and I was thrilled to be the recipient of this lovely assortment of herbs.
Purple basil was set aside to be sprinkled fresh on an as yet decided dish. Sage went into my favorite gratin. Thyme and oregano were tapped for dressing, and epazote for big white beans that I’ve been meaning to cook for ages, and I got down to making two very different pestos.
Pesto #1 is a traditional basil pesto utilizing the fragrant bunch of basil that came with this week’s CSA delivery. After eating a few leaves of Nicole’s baby basil and confirming her statement that it had crazy intense flavor for such a little plant, I added it to the pesto mix for extra basil deliciousness. The secret to good basil pesto is simplicity: toss chopped garlic, olive oil, toasted pine nuts and basil into a food processor and pulse. If it is clumpy, add more olive oil until it forms a cohesive sauce. I used 1 gargantuan clove of garlic (about the size of two normal cloves) for one large bunch of basil, and probably around half a cup of pine nuts and enough oil to smooth it all out. If you’re not sure about quantities, start out with less garlic and fewer pine nuts. You can always add more if the flavor’s not quite right. I add a pinch of salt to my pesto, but I typically wait to add parmesan until later, after the final dish has been assembled.
Pesto #2 was mostly me winging it, to be honest. I remembered seeing a recipe in gourmet a while back for a pesto made of cilantro and pepitos. I had those things, and I had some shiso, too, from the posey. I don’t know shiso very well, but I’d like to get to know it better. It has a strong, clean, almost astringent flavor that brightened up some of the sushi that we ate under the bridge the other day. In went the shiso. I added some lemon zest and lemon juice in an attempt to make it even brighter, and some sesame oil to warm it all up a bit, as well as nastursium leaves (the little lily pad looking guys in the posey picture) for bite. The cilantro-sesame flavor definitely dominates, but I think the shiso is there at the end. I think it would be better with closer to equal parts cilantro and shiso, maybe a little mint, and I’d prefer lime to lemon, but it’s pretty tasty as is.
Both pestos have been frozen in ice cube trays for year-round use. Pesto #1 will be added to pastas, frittatas, sandwiches and more. Pesto #2 will be great in coconut rice, or on tofu or fish. I look forward to adding to the stash this summer and to discovering new uses for the little sauce cubes all year.
Thanks, Tim and Nicole, for the adorable posey and for herby inspiration!