Heirloom Pesto Sandwiches Recipe

Views: 36828 | Last Update: 2011-04-08
Heirloom pesto is made from basil, and proper freezing can ensure the enjoyment of this Summer flavor in any season. Cook your favorite dishes with helpful hints from an organic gardener in this free video on garden-to-table cooking. View Video Transcript

About this Author

Willi Galloway

Willi Evans Galloway loves to read, write, talk about, and teach people how to garden organically and grow their own food. For the past five years, she has worked as the West Coast Editor of Organic Gardening magazine. Willi also recently created www.digginfood.com, a site that serves up gardening and cooking inspiration. Willi lives in Seattle with her husband, four pet chickens, a lawn-destroying Labrador, and way too many tomato plants.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Jon. And I'm Willi. And we grow a lot of what we eat in our little urban homestead in Seattle. We have bees, we have chickens, and we have a big vegetable garden that's full of vegetables right now. It is looking good. Yeah, and it has my favorite crop that I've been waiting for, which is basil. So, in today's episode, I'm going to show you how to grow basil. We're going to talk about planting it from seed and from starts, and I'm going to show you how to pinch it back so you get a bigger crop, and then we're going to harvest them and bring it indoors, and make my grandmother's pesto recipe. So, my grandmother's first language is Italian, and when I was a kid, she always grew a ton of basil outside her back stoop, and we would harvest it at the end of summer and bring it in and make huge batches of pesto. So, we're going to make some pesto and we're going to freeze it so that we can have some over the Winter. So, I'm going to head out to the garden. I'm starving already. Alright. Basil is a warm season herb, which means that it likes really warm soil and really warm air temperatures. So, it's a good idea to wait and plant it in Spring, until after your last frost, and the days have really warmed up to above 60 degrees consistently, and that the nights are staying above 55. If you plant it too early, they'll just kind of pout. When you buy basil seedlings, you'll notice that, if you take a look, there's often five, six, seven plants all planted there together. And so, before you plant, it's really important to break these apart and spread them out. If you just plant this, they'll all grow in a clump and you won't get a very good harvest. So, you want to gently tease apart the root ball, and then, as well as you can, just tease the individual plants apart, trying to preserve as much of their individual root systems as possible. I usually plant basil seedlings kind of close together, about six inches apart, and then as they grow, I'll just cut out every other plant and give the remaining plants room to grow. So, you just want to settle them into the soil, preserving as much of that root as possible. You can also grow basil by seed, and a great reason to grow basil from seed is that there's a ton of varieties available. So, this year I'm growing red rubin, which is a purple basil, and also errerat, which is a purple and green basil. And, right now I'm going to plant some salad leaf basil, which has really big leaves, but it still has that same, kind of Italian sweet basil flavor. So, when you plant basil by seed, it has really tiny seeds. It's hard to get them growing in a row, so I think it's easiest to do what is called broadcast seeding, and that's where you take a pinch of seed, broadcast it over the soil, trying to distribute the seed as evenly as possible. And, what you'll get is a bunch of seedlings coming up, and you can just slowly thin them out until they each have about eight inches of room or so on either side. Because basil seed is so small, you don't want to cover up with a bunch of soil. It won't germinate. So, I use potting soil because it's really lightweight, and I just sift a really fine layer of potting soil over the top of the basil seeds, and that way they're slightly covered, but they're not buried. Then, you want to water them in with some water, and the important thing to keep in mind when you're planting from seed, anything from seed, is that once you get the seed wet, it needs to stay consistently moist until it's germinated. If the seed dries out before it germinates, it'll die and you'll get really inconsistent germination. So, if it's warm, you might need to go out and water two to three times a day. It's also really important to use a watering can, because the hose has too strong of a stream of water, and it'll wash your seed out. So, that's kind of the basics for basil planting. Now, we're going to head over to another part of the garden where I have some more basil, and I'm going to show you how to pinch it back so that you get a bigger yield and harvest. So, the biggest mistake that people make when they're growing basil is they don't harvest it enough, 'cause they want, you know, to save it all for the end. But, actually, harvesting frequently is the best way to improve the amount of leaves that you're going to get from one plant. So, basil has what's called opposite leaves, and that means that they grow directly opposite each other in pairs, and then they switch sides at the stem as they grow. So, as the plant's growing, you consistently want to pinch off one of the top leaves. The reason why you do this is there's these little leaves growing at the junction there, and if you pinch off the set of leaves right above them, that tells the plant to turn these little tiny leaves into branches, and so they'll start to grow. Um, also, you never want to let basil flower. When it starts to flower, it gets these kind of little stacked leaves. When they do that, that's the sign that you want to pinch that top leaf off, 'cause that will, again, prevent it from flowering. When the plant flowers, the leaves develop a tougher texture, and the flavor goes down. So, now that I've gathered some leaves, I think I'm going to head inside and start making pesto. So, start by adding three clump cloves of garlic to the food processor and a half a cup of pine nuts. You want to process them first so that they are finely chopped. Then, you want to add four packed cups of basil, and packed means you really want to smush them into the cup. And then I have three more packed cups right here. So, add the basil in, along with a half a cup of finely-shredded Parmesan cheese that's been packed into the half cup. And then again, you want to process all of this together until it's really well-combined. Then, with the blade running, you want to pour in a half a cup of olive oil in a nice, steady stream. So, pretty easy. Once you're done with the pesto, you'll want to store in the refrigerator, or freeze it. I'm just going to scrape this into here. When you're storing pesto in the fridge, you want to put a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface of this, 'cause that will help prevent it from turning brown. So, you just, actually smush it right on top, before you stick it in the fridge, and then you can put a lid on top of that, too. Also, pesto is really easy to freeze, and I have some that I already froze. You just take large spoonfuls and place them in a dollop onto a tray, and then stick them in a freezer. Once they're frozen solid, you can pick them up, and then just wrap them individually in plastic wrap. Once these are all wrapped up, you can store them in a plastic container with a lid in the freezer. And so, this is a great way; then you'll have pesto to use in the Winter. And so, I thought I'd show you one of our favorite ways to eat pesto, and that's to use it with sandwiches. So, I'm going to make a really simple sandwich, here, and I'm just going to spread some pesto onto some bread; so, I'm using that as a spread. You just spread it onto the bread. And then, I'm going to put two slices of mozzarella cheese, and then some tomatoes that I roasted and then marinated in garlic and herbs and some vinegar. So, these sandwiches are super easy to make, so delicious. A little messy to eat, but a great Summer treat. Let's see what Jon thinks. So, I put the pesto on some sandwiches. This is exciting. So, I love pesto because it just has such a good basil flavor, and it's a great way to preserve a Summery flavor for the Winters. It's just such a versatile thing to have on hand. So, you can use it as a sandwich spread. Today, I just spread it on the bread, but you can mix it with mayonnaise, you can stir it into soup, you can toss roasted potatoes and other vegetables with it. So, it's just one of those things that's so nice to have on hand 'cause it just pumps up the flavor of anything it goes with. Well, I'm so glad we have a lot of pesto in the freezer for Winter. That was a delicious sandwich. You definitely did your grandma proud. Thank you. Yeah, I mean, pesto was her favorite thing to make, and when you pinch it back, you really get so many leaves that you can make a ton of pesto, even just from the few plants. And it's so garlicy, I loved it. Well, I hope that you enjoyed learning how to make my grandmother's pesto recipe and that you freeze some so you can have it over the Winter. If you have any ideas for using pesto or basil, let us know in the comment section. You can also join us on Facebook and share the video out with your friends. And, we hope that you tune in again for our next episode of "Grow. Cook. Eat."