Jennifer Oppermann

Jennifer Oppermann


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Pesto you Pesto me

    I don’t know about you but I am a pesto fan and would happily put it on most savory dishes. But there are certain characteristics which can make or break the green goddess of the sauce world.


   I’m not a fan of any acidic tastes notes added to it, like lemon or white wine vinegar, which some people add in as a preservative. I think it turns the pesto into something else altogether. I of course like it as fresh as is humanly possible, so I like to make my own.


    I have a glut of different varieties of fresh basil growing in my garden this year, with some rather unexpected mixes of flavors. One is such variety is cinnamon basil which tastes rather like Thai basil or otherwise known as holy basil. I also have mint basil and lime basil growing which do what they say on the tin. I have a cute miniature leaf Greek variety which I mainly use for presentation or finishing off a dish.


   I really wanted to make use of every leaf of my crop so I made a large batch of pesto and have transferred it to several kiln jars. I used two of the varieties I have growing for the pesto, the commoner garden variety and the mint basil as felt they would suit best.


    I have tried various nuts, such as almond and hazelnuts into the mix as the usual and probably most authentic nut to use is pine nuts. For this batch, I used hazelnuts as I find they are a more of a budget friendly option. I roast them in the oven for 15 minutes at 170 degrees on a baking sheet. I then let them cool and I rub them with a tea towel to remove the dark skins. I find the roasting of the hazelnuts really is a game changer as regards the flavor. I let them cool before I make the pesto.


    Oxidation of the pesto can be a problem and often leaves you with a green sludge like mix. I have found solution to that problem thanks to a lovely Italian octogenarian by the name of Leila who let me in on her little secret.  I had the pleasure of cooking with her one afternoon last year while holidaying on the coast of Italy and gleaned many cooking tips in the process.


    So basically, to keep your pesto super green you blanch your leaves and stems in salted boiling water for a couple of seconds, as the basil leaves are very delicate and you then plunge them into an iced bowl of water and remove them and pat them with some kitchen towel.


    Super smooth or chunky the choice is yours.  I prefer mine with a bit of bite with small chunks of nuts and parmesan.


    I love to add pesto to baked potatoes, salads, slathered on bread and of course with pasta, especially some home-made gnocchi. What way do you like to eat it or with what?


Whichever way, buon appetito!




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