Lemon Infused Basil Pesto
The farmers’ market is the place where I am often inspired by local artistry. In the case of produce farmers, colourfully displayed seasonal veggies make us dream of what’s to come for this evening’s supper. Long, hard hours of field labour yield endless varieties and flavours for the consumer, while raw food enthusiasts’ eye popping creations draw people like a giant magnet, shocking audiences with unexpectedly delicious treats that are packed full of pure energy.
I created this pesto recipe after I visited a chef vendor who was selling new lines of tasty oils and vinegars. Focused on the mind-blowingly tasty pesto sample, the chef’s sales pitch, which included the ingredients list, faded to the back of my head.
As a result, I shamefully don’t remember what exactly went into the recipe, but my palate recalls this chef’s pesto simply served on a slice of heirloom tomatoes, making me long for my own heirloom tomatoes to ripen quickly. In the meantime, in the effort to store basil leaves from my garden, I made a few jars of pesto using what I had been saving for a special occasion. And my wild mushroom-infused olive oil turned out to be another unique and sublime pesto ingredient.
Lemon-Infused Basil Pesto
Makes about 350ml
2 cups tightly packed basil leaves, washed and patted dry
¾ cup almonds, toasted and cooled
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped roughly
120ml lemon-infused olive oil
¼ to ½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
Place the basil, almonds and garlic in layers in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse while adding the oil in a thin, steady stream from the feed tube until the mass becomes a coarse, grainy paste. Scrape the side of the bowl to make sure no big pieces of leaves are left.
While pulsing, add salt little by little to reach the desired saltiness. Add pepper and pulse to combine. Finally, add the vinegar and pulse until well mixed.
Store the pesto in an airtight container and keep it refrigerated up to 10 days. Or alternatively, freeze for later use.
Lemon-Infused Basil Pesto on Heirloom Tomato Slices
This recipe celebrates the season’s end for glorious heirloom tomatoes that we grew and the unbelievably sunny months we had! Serve as a light appetizer without bread or as part of a full lunch with toasty rustic bread to mop up all the pesto and juicy tomato goodness. Or conversely, serve everything in layers to taste the wholeness!
3 tablespoons Lemon-Infused Basil Pesto, room temperature
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 heirloom tomatoes, sliced to ½ inch thick pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
A loaf of good rustic bread, sliced and toasted (optional)
Thin down the lemon-infused basil pesto with the extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl.
Place the tomato slices on a platter or a plate and drizzle generously with the pesto over tomatoes. Sprinkle with the black pepper. Serve as is or with/on bread.
Lemon-Infused Basil Pesto & Portobello Mushroom Pasta
4 large Portobello mushrooms
Vegetable oil for brushing
Salt and freshly ground pepper
10 tablespoons Lemon-Infused Basil Pesto
4 portions pasta of your choice
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Clean the gills on the underside of the mushrooms by scraping with the edge of a small spoon. Removing the gills will prevent the mushrooms from leaching black colour onto your dishes. Cut off the ends of stems until a clean surface appears.
Brush the mushroom tops with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper on a baking sheet lined with a piece of parchment paper. Flip the mushrooms, underside facing up, and spread 2 tablespoons of the pesto evenly into the grooves of each one.
Roast the mushrooms, pesto side up, on the centre rack of the oven for about 20 minutes or until cooked. If the pesto and the edges of the mushrooms get too dark, cover with a piece of aluminum foil. Let sit for 5 minutes and slice the mushrooms into ¼ to ½ inch pieces. Keep covered to maintain warm until the pasta is ready.
In the meantime, cook the pasta in salted boiling water to al dente. Drain well. Mix in 2 tablespoons of pesto to coat the pasta noodles. Set aside.
Place the pasta on a platter or individual plates and top with the mushrooms. Adjust with freshly ground pepper. Serve warm.