A Passion for Pesto

On a recent trip to the Union Square Greenmarket, I was introduced to the wild world of basil. Pretty crazy, I know. But at one of the kiosks, there were a half dozen different types of basil available for sale. Needless to say I was overwhelmed. I decided to start small and walked away with two of the more familiar types: lemon basil and sweet basil - as well as a burning curiosity about the four others I had left behind - thai, mexican, cinnamon and genovese. All of which I plan to tackle before the summer's end...but for now, three variations of my own:

As my first experience with lemon basil, I decided to start basic by making a traditional pesto of garlic, pine nuts, parmesean cheese and olive oil. It gave off a surprisingly strong citrusy aroma, so I thought it best to pair it with some fish. I spread it over some baked salmon, finishing it with a sprinkle of parmesean and second under the broiler, which provided it with a great little crust. Served with a lemon wedge and a glass of white wine, the fish and lemon pesto complimented each other quite well.

For my next attempt, I played around with the traditional ingredients - particularly the garlic, which I mellowed out by roasting and the pine nuts, which I toasted to add some nuttiness. I blended with olive oil, sweet basil and loads of Parmesan cheese. Mixed with some whole wheat farfalle to accentuate the nuttiness of the concoction, it was mild, creamy and smooth -and thanks to the roasted garlic, I was still kissable at the end of the night.

And with the last remaining lemon basil, I made a sweet pea pesto - pureeing fresh petite peas, sweet basil, a few sprigs of mint, and some raw almonds, I created a mild, sweet spread - one almost too delicate to pair with a piece of meat or a hearty pasta. So channeling a bruschetta I had shared at 'ino recently, I decided to dollop it onto a warm baguette, sprinkled it with pecorino cheese and just had at it. It tasted as fresh as Spring. And thanks to my freezer and an ice cube tray - a taste I will be enjoying again sometime this winter when I need a little green.


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