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Recipe: Pistou ~ Pesto
Pesto is a well-known Italian condiment consisting of commercially produced basil, olive oil, garlic and pine nuts.
Pistou, its lesser-known cousin used in French cuisine, is a mix of basil, olive oil and garlic. Note the main difference is the pine nuts, which are used in the Italian version and not in the French.
The traditional French version of pistou is made only with garlic, basil, olive oil and salt. It is now common to see it made with Parmesan or other cheeses and sometimes with a tomato thrown in for extra flavoring.
Pistou is a Provençal word derived from the Latin pestare, which means “to pound.” Pistou is made by “pounding” ingredients together using a mortar and pestle. Food processors have replaced the mortar and pestle, but cookbook author Patricia Wells notes that the traditional method of the mortar and pestle must be used to retain the traditional color of bright green. Pesto sauce is best when made one to two days before it’s used. To store it longer, cover it with a thin film of olive oil and keep it in the refrigerator. It can also be frozen immediately in tablespoon and 1/2-cup portions.
Pistou can be used as a sauce for pasta or as a flavoring for steamed vegetables, grilled fish or chicken. Its best-known use is in Soupe au Pistou, a Provençal soup that showcases a wide variety of garden vegetables. In certain regions, bacon, sausage or ham is also added. Rumor has it this classic Provençal cuisine was created in the 18th century by a duchess to seduce a marquis.
- 4 cups fresh basil, finely shredded or cut with scissors
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Gruyère (or Parmesan)
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- freshly ground pepper
1. Place half the ingredients in a food processor and blend. When the purée is smooth, pour it into a bowl.
2. Purée the rest of the ingredients and add them to the first batch.
3. Stir in the cheese. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to two days.
To store the pistou:
To keep the sauce longer than two days in the refrigerator, cover it with some olive oil. You can also make the above recipe by processing the basil, parsley and olive oil. Pour the mixture into a freezer bag and freeze it flat. When you need some pistou, break off some of the frozen mixture and add in some pressed garlic and cheese.