patch of green

October 1st, 2011

The basil patch has flourished, despite its neglect, into a glossy green mass of fragrance.  When considering how expensive fresh basil is at the stupormarket, satisfaction is sure to follow when calculating the retail value of many hundreds of three-dollar sprigs that populate the garden.

Capturing basil at its freshest and preserving it for use through the winter is a worthy challenge and there are really only two methods that return winter to summer in a single bite.  One method is to process the fresh basil leaves with water and then freeze it in ice cube trays, repack the cubes in zipper bags and use as needed whenever a tablespoon of fresh basil is called for in soups or sauces.

The other sure-fire method, albeit more time-consuming, is pesto, which freezes just as successfully.  The word pesto comes from the past participle of the Italian pestare and simply means “to pound”.  What one ends up pounding is totally arbitrary and does not necessitate basil and pine nuts, rather, can be mint and almonds or cilantro and walnuts or a younger brother who’s misbehaving.

My current favorite pounding is basil with walnuts, garlic, parmesan (or fontinella), processed with olive oil and its uses are exhaustive.  Aside from the expected toss with pasta, pesto adds new dimensions to ground beef and lamb, especially when grilled, and throws an everyday vinaigrette into untoward realms of magic.  Of course, it’s great on toasted crostini and other baked goods, and in particular, when slathered onto puff pastry and rolled into Palmiers, baked and served crispy-hot and redolent of the end-of-summer garden.

Pesto Palmiers

Related Recipes

Pesto Palmiers

These reheat beautifully in a hot oven for 4-5 minutes.

For the Basil-Walnut Pesto:

  • 2 cups basil leaves, packed
  • ½ cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, pulse basil with walnuts until finely chopped.  Add Parmesan and garlic and process until smooth.  With machine running, slowly pour in olive oil.  Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Spoon pesto into a container and float some additional olive oil on top.  Cover tightly and refrigerate.

For the Palmiers:

  • one sheet prepared puff pastry, thawed
  • fresh pesto
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat Oven to 425 degrees.

On a lightly floured counter, roll out puff pastry to approximately 12 inches by 12 inches.  Spread a light coat of pesto over the surface of the dough.  Carefully roll the bottom edge upwards to the center.  Repeat with the other side.  Slice into 1/3 inch pieces and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bush pastries lightly with melted butter and sprinkle on the grated Parmesan.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown, rotating sheet pan half way through baking time.

Cool on a rack briefly and serve warm.

Copyright © Katherine Stetson, all rights reserved.