Basil Pesto – Even with Bad Genes

basil pesto
In my Delicious family, I got gypped with respect to our gene puddle (according to Professor Todd, it is not a gene “pool” if we’re just talking about my five-member military). I’m not saying that my Dad’s side, from which I inherited about 99% of my physical characteristics and personality traits, is bad. It’s just that I didn’t get any of the “good” things like incredible intelligence, natural aptitude with languages, ultra-mega memory of a CIA computer, nor any of the fantastic physical traits like thick dark hair and perfectly porcelain skin.

Instead, I ended up with all the recessive freaky-weird genes: tiny, narrow eyes that disappear into a giant Giada-sized head with an equally enormous five-head, long torso, short stumpy bow legs, wispy limp hair, and pimple-prone pasty pale white skin. Like Dad, I am introverted, hot tempered, socially awkward, have a massive sweet tooth that contributes in an oddly exponential way to fat reserves, and have an uncanny ability to only see the worst side of everything. The glass isn’t just half empty. The half-full part is filled with bacteria- and germ-infested tap water that tastes like chlorine.

My sisters, on the other hand, take completely after my mother: long, slender legs and arms, a ridiculous metabolism that just seems to increase as they eat more bacon and cupcakes, huge round double-lidded eyes, light hair, light eyes, smooth dark skin. Both my sisters are artistic, creative, outgoing, friendly, charming, always the center of attention without trying, progressive thinking, and are just naturally happy and positive all the time.

I am none of that, and among the many other supremely awesome things I did not inherit from my Mom’s side which I am not going to list anymore because it will depress me is the innate ability to grow things. I swear my sisters and Mom could coax a tree out of a sheet of paper. I, on the other hand, will buy a thriving cactus, and have it wither and shrivel into a pile of needles within 12 hours. A cactus! Who kills a cactus?!?!

pesto ingredients: basil, garlic, cheese, pine nuts
store-bought ingredients for homemade pesto

I do.

I realize that there are things out there that grow like weeds. Herbs are supposed to be hardy, but I am certain that even if I actually tried to keep a rosemary bush or even a little windowbox herb garden, they would be “dried herbs” by no intention of my own. Strangely, I still put “Grow Something” on my list of New Year’s Resolutions for 2006. Yikes.

So this summer, while all of the fabulous food bloggers are writing about how they strolled through their gardens for inspiration, plucked whatever wa ripe and ready, and prepared a fantastic four-course meal of things that they grew, I will be making pesto with store-bought basil. Basil I bought at the market. Not even the farmers’ market, but at…Ralphs. Because I didn’t want to make two stops for Parmigianno-Reggiano.

herbal essence

But at least it’s better than buying store-bought pesto. I’m not that Sandra Lee! Besides, store-bought pesto is the reason why I thought I hated pesto in the first place.

Oh yeah, I inherited that from my Dad’s side, too. I prefer to hate everything first, then learn to love it later.

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I have to say that the pesto was pretty good. Of course, it’s not really that arrogant, since it is Mother Nature who provides the fragrant, fresh basil, garlic, and pine nuts. But if there is some merit to being able to measure and press “pulse” on my food processor, then *toot toot*

The pesto was intended for hors d’ouevre for two events in a row. I took a few pesto -topped toasts to a birthday party on Saturday night, then made more for a jewelry designer’s trunk show the next day. I have been asked to make them again. Maybe I should grow some basil!

Yeah, right.

pesto and cheese on toast
happy birthday!
pesto and cheese on toast with olive
if the mediterranean were toast


According to some people, “authentic” pesto can only be made with young sweet basil from Genoa, Italy, and must be crushed with a mortar and pestle, but let’s face it, if I’m not growing my own basil, I’m certainly not going to fly over to Italy to get authentic Genovese basil, let alone crush it by hand.

Spin 2-3 large cloves of garlic in the food processor until they are finely minced. Add 3 c. firmly packed basil leaves, ¾ c. grated Parmesan cheese, and ½ c. pine nuts. Chop, then drizzle in about ½ to ¾ c. olive oil until you get the desired consistency. Salt and pepper to taste.

Pesto-topped Toasts

Remove crusts and cut each slice of a firm bread into four pieces – I made triangles because I’m fancy like that. Spread each piece with a thin layer of softened butter, then bake in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes on each side. You can do it for longer if you want the toasts to have a very crisp, crouton-like texture.

Spread each slice of bread with softened cream cheese. I would have used goat cheese except that the trunk show’s hostess said most of her guests probably wouldn’t eat goat cheese (something about pregnant women and soft cheeses). Top cream cheese with a dollop of pesto and a sliver of sun-dried tomato or kalamata olive.

** a year ago today, it was still a little early to say “ya” about sa sa ya **

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dolores July 7, 2006 at 11:41 pm

ohmygawd, I’m your long lost, pasty-pale-white-for-an-Italian big sister. I kid you not, I killed THREE cacti in college.

Now where’s that pesto recipe? ;)


2 Anonymous July 8, 2006 at 12:23 am

Sarah, I love your blog. I think you’re hilarious. And from what I can see of your pic, you’re quite attractive. As an Asian woman, I have to lecture you just a tad and say that Western beauty standards are not what you should measure yourself by. End of lecture. Keep on posting and we’ll keep reading.


3 Annix July 8, 2006 at 11:32 am

Sarah, that was one of your funniest/wittiest/best written posts ever. The self-deprecation bit always works for talented chicks *wink*
Hey, I got no green thumb either – but there’s a good side to that : nobody ever asks me to water their plants while they’re away again!


4 Anonymous July 9, 2006 at 5:51 am

you can buy a potted basil plant at trader joes. But you know what is easy to grow? daikon radish root. you can buy the seeds from the japanese market and grow in a little disposable foil baking dish. its so fun watching them grow! and they end up being more spicy than the store bought ones. and they grow in less than a week. hanna


5 Anonymous July 9, 2006 at 5:53 am

oh sorry, not daikon radish root, daikon SPROUTS. very easy to grow. never grown the “moos.”


6 Anonymous September 2, 2006 at 8:38 pm

Were you aware that the term ‘gypped’ is in reference to gypsies – and it’s not a compliment?


7 Anonymous December 19, 2008 at 2:22 am

bitch please! you can dance and you’re funny and not even nearly as ugly as you think. smile.

— asian chick much like you


8 Anonymous December 19, 2008 at 2:22 am

bitch please! you can dance and you’re funny and not even nearly as ugly as you think. smile.

— asian chick much like you


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