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[Comments] (5) Pesto Myths And Facts: I should be sleeping off my NewsBruiser triumph, but instead I'm writing this because I promised Sumana to demystify pesto tonight. So let me tell you that I made pesto on a whim without ever having made it before and it was great. I made it out of less-than-fresh basil and it was great. I made "Panic Pesto" out of whatever vaguely relevant ingredients I had lying around, and it was great. It's hard to screw up pesto. With that in mind, let me clear up some common misconceptions about pesto and its manufacture.

Myth: Pesto is just olive oil and basil.
Fact: Pesto is also three other things.

To make pesto you combine basil, nuts, cheese, and garlic in a food processor, then, with the food processor on, drizzle in olive oil until the mixture becomes semi-liquid. There should be a lot of basil, the same amount of nuts as cheese, and garlic to taste.

You can add pepper if you want. I wouldn't add salt if I were you. There's plenty of salt in the cheese, and if you are some kind of salt vampire or humanoid deer you should just keep your freakish lifestyle to yourself. There is no room in the blues for your petty sentimentality!

Myth: You must use hand-carved pine nuts.
Fact: That doesn't even make sense.

You can make pesto with any kind of nut. Panic Pesto was made of half pine nuts and half walnuts. Does it make a difference? Sure. In the way it tastes. Not in whether or not it's pesto. It still tastes fine.

Myth: Only Parmesan cheese is acceptable.
Fact: The previous statement is a myth, whereas this one is fact.

Panic Pesto was made of 1/4 Parmesan and 3/4 Jarlsberg fondue leftovers. If Jarlsberg works, then any white hard or semi-soft cheese should work. Maybe bleu cheese would work. Maybe even cheddar would work.

Myth: The non-use of basil in pesto will anger the pesto king.
Fact: The pesto king is an imposter and a fraud. So who cares?

I have only ever made pesto with basil, because both Sumana and I are crazy about basil. But you could make it with parsley instead, or spinach, or anything that's leafy and green with some flavor. You could even make mint pesto, though I wouldn't put it on pasta.

Myth: Blah blah blah.
Fact: Just put whatever you want in pesto. Make it with walnut oil. Substitute some other aromatic for garlic. Make hummus instead. You could probably come up with a combination that is awful, but my feeling is you'd have to ignore some other common-sense rule of cooking to do it.

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Posted by Alyson at Wed May 12 2004 10:33

Now that you've demystified pesto, and speaking of hummus, I'd like a really killer hummus recipe. Somehow, no matter how many times I try to make my own, and regardless of whose recipe I am using, my hummus is always blah. Am I not cooking my chickpeas long enough? Not enough lemon juice? I know I put enough garlic. Why isn't my hummus comparable to the better brands I can buy at the store (which can get expensive) Grrr. It is a conspiracy to keep me away from a daily dose of good hummus. I had the best hummus, and baba ganoush, at the Mad Greek restaurant this weekend, by the way.

Posted by Leonard at Wed May 12 2004 11:02

Sounds tasty! I have never made hummus but I will give it a whirl (in the food processor). I'll try to get a smooth hummus like Ali Baba in South San Francisco (a favorite lunch spot for CollabNet employees) instead of the store-bought stuff, which I think is a little grainy. I think the Ali Baba hummus uses a lot of lemon juice.

Posted by Susie at Wed May 12 2004 11:20

I have made pesto with spinach and it was good. John loved it.

Posted by Rachel at Wed May 12 2004 12:25

*is suddenly v hungry*

Posted by Leonard at Wed May 12 2004 19:55

I forgot to buy pita bread! And yogurt. On the plus side, I did buy all the non-perishable items, so I can run the experiment the next time I go to the store.

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