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June 2010

Basil-Lemon Pistou

I posted this in my old blog five years ago. I must have been in a pretty strange mood; it's kind  of giddy. Anyway, now with marginal quality photos!

Why pistou, you ask? Well, it's francais for a kind of pesto! in the original version, there's no cheese, and there are never nuts, so it would not really be called pesto by the, um, basil-garlic sauce pedants of the world.

Thing about pistou, just like pesto, is that you can pretty much do whatever you like to it, beyond the basic requirements of basil, olive oil, and garlic. with a tetch of salt. hey, you know how salt is mad cheap? Go for broke, spend a dollar more, and get sea salt. It's brighter, somehow, in flavor.

You may substitute another variety of basil for the lemon, as long as it's basically basil in aroma. If you do, add the zest of an entire lemon, instead of the weensy bit called for here.

And you may substitute parmiggiano for asiago. I'd recommend leaving out the salt if you do. Asiago is my personal preference for nearly anything that calls for parmiggiano.

You will note my proportions are not exact. That is how I do things.

We eat this stuff on fried things, like eggplant or salmon cakes. You may use it with pasta.

Oh--use it right away, really. You can frig it, and just stir the oil back in for use, for a couple of days? But it's not as nice.

Take about 2 cups of basil leaves (packed in pretty well,) and chop at them for a little while.

Then add them to a mortar. (What is this you call food processor? Okay, you can use it, but I arch my eye at you like this--.) Add 4 cloves of peeled, squashed garlic (you may use the equivalent from a jar) and a pinch of sea salt.

Commence pounding. Or pulsing, if you take that route. When a paste is formed, put it in a bowl that's the size you like to work in. Like, medium. (Always use a slightly larger bowl than the one you think you need. Just trust me on that. ) Or leave it in the food processor.

Add a cup of well-grated asiago cheese, and either a couple of pinches of lemon zest, or a whole lemon's worth, depending on your basil. stir, pound, pulse, or otherwise blend. (You can grate it through the food processor, if you want to switch blades back and forth, but be careful not to have it set too high. And the cheese really does have to come in after the basil and garlic.)

Finally, add between 1/2-2/3 cups of good olive oil.
You will stream this in a little at a time and stir, if you're being old-fashioned and time-consuming like me, or stream it in while the machine is blending on low, if you're everyone else.

Check the texture after 1/2 cup, because you may want to keep it that way. The original recipe calls for 2/3 cup.

I promise I will not tell a soul, if, after you've tasted the pistou, you wish to add a bit of freshly-grated black pepper.