I am having a bumper crop of basil in my herb garden this year, time to make some pesto! I put together my herb garden a couple of years ago and it has worked out great. It is a raised bed (waist high) that is enclosed with screens to keep the birds and bugs out. You can read about the garden here if you are interested.
Back to my basil … I picked up two large pots of basil for $2.99 each at Trader Joe’s and planted them in my herb garden (I have done this for the past couple of years), and it is hard to keep up with how fast they grow in the summer. So, whenever I need to do a good trimming, I make pesto … with a Texas twist: pecans instead of pine nuts.
I know, pine nut and walnuts are what you normally see in the recipes out there, but I actually have pecan trees in my backyard. Besides, with this being Texas, using pecans just makes sense.
One other Texas thing I do with my pesto is I actually smoke my pecans before roasting them. If you don’t have a smoker, just roasting them in the oven is fine.
I also like to hand-chop my pesto instead of using a food processor. Maybe it’s just me, but pesto out of a food processor has a baby-food light green look to it and has a one-note taste. When you hand-chop pesto, the basil turns a nice dark green and the small chunks of nuts, cheese and garlic create little flavor explosions in your mouth.
Texas Pecan Pesto
• 2 to 3 cups of basil leaves (when pressed flat in measuring cup)
• 1 cup pecan halves
• ¾ cup of shaved Parmesan cheese
• 3 to 4 cloves of garlic
• ½ to 1 cup of olive oil
• Salt to taste
Smoke or roast pecans, if you have a smoker – smoke pecans at a low temperature (180-200ºF) for an hour, then raise the temperature to 300ºF and roast for 20 minutes, turning the pecans once. If using the oven, preheat oven to 300ºF and roast pecans for 20 minutes, turning the pecans once.
Let pecans cool, then roughly chop (1/4 inch squares) and set aside.
Roughly chop garlic and Parmesan cheese, and then set aside.
Roughly chop basil leaves, and then add chopped pecans, garlic and Parmesan cheese and mix together on cutting board.
Finely chop basil mixture till it is almost minced (check picture in slide show above).
Place basil mixture into bowl and stir in olive oil a couple of tablespoons at a time until the mixture is just saturated with the oil. Salt to taste.
Pesto can keep for around two weeks in the refrigerator.
The pesto turned out great, with a touch of smoke and a nice nutty pecan flavor. Pesto is great on pasta and chicken, but this being Texas, I topped off a steak with this batch of pesto. You can check it out in the slide show above.