When my husaband and I lived in our small apartment in New York City, I was determined to have an herb garden. Living on the second floor of a five-story building, however, did not allow access to any idyllic rooftop gardens. Rockefellers we were not. On our kitchen windowsill, which was no more than 6-inches deep, we perched a basil plant. Through sporadic waterings, big-city pollution, and drastic seasonal temperature changes, it proved itself to be the little-basil-plant-that-could. I was thrilled that we got 20 to 30 leaves from it each summer. As a measure of drastic contrast, this morning I plucked four cups of big, beautiful leaves from our backyard basil plants. I did not even manage to make a dent in the full, flourishing plants.
While I appreciate a classic basil pesto recipe as much as the next gal, I was inspired by our lemon basil to change things up a little by replacing pine nuts with toasted slivered almonds and adding some lemon zest to enhance the citrus herbal flavor.
Not only does pesto freeze well for a mid-winter’s brief glimmer of summer, but it is extremely versatile in its uses. It pairs beautifully with fish, such as mahi mahi or salmon, adds a burst of flavor to panini, and enhances a grilled pizza.
In the bowl of a food processor or a blender, briefly pulse 4 cups fresh basil leaves (I used 3 cups Italian basil and 1 cup lemon basil). Add 1/2 cup toasted almond slivers (I toasted them for about 5 minutes in a skillet set over medium heat), 1 clove garlic, minced, and 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind (use 1 1/2 teaspoons if you don’t have lemon basil).
With the motor running, slowly pour in 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil and run until combined. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
Lemon & Almond Basil Pesto
3 cups fresh Italian basil
1 cup fresh lemon basil (or an additional cup of Italian basil, plus additional 1/2 tsp grated lemon rind)
1/2 cup toasted almond sliver
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
In the bowl of a food processor or a blender, briefly pulse basil leaves. Add toasted almond slivers (I toasted them for about 5 minutes in a skillet set over medium heat), garlic, and grated lemon rind. Pulse several time until mixture is finely chopped, but still with some texture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper, and pulse until combined.
With the motor running, slowly pour in olive oil and run until combined. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
Makes 1 1/4 cup pesto.