Budget Gourmet: Pesto

Yes, I'm still alive, but barely. The bell for the last 2 laps have rung, and I'm running at a furious pace toward the finish line. In other words, the bar exam is in 2 weeks, and I have serious doubts about passing. Well, basically everyone does.

I want to thank you all for your kind words of support. I am definitely trying the hardest I can to hang on and beat this. To all my friends who are reading this, thanks for looking out for me and taking care of me. I wouldn't be able to survive all these crazy mishaps which, of course, have to occur at an inopportune time if not for your help.

Without further interruptions, here's my last post before I'll post again in a few weeks.

Two weeks ago I really, really craved pesto. I had a pesto pasta at a family dinner several weeks ago, and that led me to seriously carry out something I've been wanting to do for a long, long time--make my own. I figured it's better to do that than to spend money and buy some.

Before I got started, I did some homework. There are a lot of different recipes, but the common ingredients are basil, garlic, pinenuts, and olive oil. I also talked to a classmate who made it before, and I was told that it's rather time consuming. That got me a little bit scared, since I didn't want to lose too much studying time over this. But gluttony got the better of me, and I went ahead and did it.

The biggest hurdle is the technology. I don't have a blender or food processor. I didn't even have a mortar and pestle. That meant I had to do some creative, laborious manual work. I started by washing the basil and plucking off a lot of leaves, then finely chopped them. That was by far the most time-consuming step, but I try to maximize the efficiency with the knifework. Each time I push the knife forward, it makes a cut, and each time I pull it back, it makes a cut. It did more work than if I cut and then lift the knife up. Then I chopped up garlic, which was easy to do.

The fun part was crushing the pinenuts. It was by far the most expensive ingredient (I got a small 9 oz. reseable container's worth for $8), so I didn't want to screw up. As it turns out, I didn't need a whole lot. I put some into a ziploc bag, push out all the air before sealing it, then wrap aluminum foil around it. After that, I wrapped aluminum foil around a hammer so that it doesn't "contaminate" the pinenuts should it go all the way through. Fortunately, the pinenuts were quickly and finely crushed without incident. [Ed.: I forgot to mention that someone suggested a brilliant idea--use a rolling pin instead of a hammer.]

I mixed the basil and garlic in a bowl with enough olive oil to cover the surface, then I added in the pinenuts and a little more oil. I then mixed and crushed at the same time. It smelled fresh and tasted grrrrreat. For about $3 and an hour of my time, I made enough pesto to last for several meals. For the first night, I served it over pesto, then I saved the rest in a jar. On the next day, I made a sandwich out of it. After a few days, it started to lose the freshness, so I decided to put the pesto in a saucepan to saute the garlic and mixed in some spaghetti sauce from a bottle. That was really, really good. On the same vein, someone recommended freezing cubes of it in an ice cube tray, which preserves the freshness; it's easier to pop out a cube for a meal as necessary.

Here are some pictures of the creative process, including my stained fingers. Basil does leave a dark green mess. Unfortunately, no hammer pictures--I forgot to document the process until I was done:

Well, it's back to memorizing easements and equitable servitudes, and then switch gears to my Achilles' Heel--the distinction between federal and California evidence rules. I'll post again when all this madness is over.

See you on the other side!


lisa said...

It looks delicious! I'm inspired to try my hand at the process....

And, good luck on the bar--FWIW, a great deal of intelligence and determination comes through in your posts, so I, a complete stranger, have confidence that you'll do well. :)

Jennifer Lin said...

that looks good! and I love pesto!

Sales Rack Raider said...

Thank you so much, Lisa!

Jen--you should make your own and post the results. Better yet, I should get to eat some and write a glowing review for you. =)

ambika said...

It looks delicious. I have to say, a coffee grinder works just as well as a food processor (as long as you don't mind *thorougly* cleaning it after) for crushing pine nuts (or any nuts--the boyfriend does peanuts in there for his phad thai), chopping basil or...well, any small thing you'd use a food processor for. Plus, they're a *lot* cheaper than one.

Good luck with the bar!

alexgirl said...

I was going to suggest the pesto ice-cubes too! Great minds...
It all sounds lovely. If I had a bigger kitchen I'd definitely cook more.
Great blog, BTW!

S. said...

Oh woman, that looks so freaking good! I'm here at work without breakfast.

I hear you can make variations with other herbs and nuts of your choice. I've been wanting to do that. YUM!

Sales Rack Raider said...

Thanks, Alex! You've got a fun blog.

S.--Right now I'm still a considerable novice at pesto-making, but I aspire to be creative with it one day.