When you have the best quality ingredients and the right atmosphere, simple and basic recipes always yield beautiful, delicious results.
The summer is now over in Ankara and I decided to take a break from the city life and our busy kitchen at The Rabbit Hole. I hit the road south where summer is still alive and mixing with the lovely autumn lights. I am in the mountain house in Tahtali Mountain in Antalya. The garden still has the summer vibes; lavenders are in bloom, tomatoes are ripe and the basil are everywhere. But I can feel the autumn is soon, the pomegranates taking colour in the trees, quinces are nearly ripe, lemons, oranges and kumquats are full on the branches but all green yet.
When I saw the vast amount of fully grown basil in the garden, I just couldn't help the idea of making pesto. Just as I have the best freshest basil and very good quality extra virgin olive oil, making pesto is one of the best ways to preserve the fresh basil taste.
Pesto is a simple yet delicious Italian tradition with the use of parmigiano and pecorino cheeses. However, it is not easy to find pecorino in Turkey. I was lucky to have a good cut of parmigiano with me from my trip to Italy last June, but I had no pecorino. I had to come up with an alternative and I decided to use Izmir Tulum cheese to replace the pecorino. I luckily found a 100% sheep's milk Izmir Tulum cheese, which nicely replaced the pecorino with its hard and grainy texture and mild nutty aroma. The result was just as good with a local touch and taste.
OK, here we go, these are the ingredients I used and this is how I make the simple but beautiful Pesto!
Yields approximately 500 grams of pesto
250 grams fresh basil leaves
175 ml extra virgin olive oil
25 grams pine nut (not roasted)
15 grams grated parmigiano
15 grams grated Izmir Tulumu (or pecorino)
2 small cloves of garlic
Sea salt to taste
I wash the basil leaves and let them dry. I used my large stone mortar and pestle to make the pesto and I strongly recommend you do the same instead of using a food processor. I put the basil, pine nuts, garlic and a pinch of sea salt in the stone mortar and started to pestle slowly until I get a paste. I then add the cheeses and and drizzle in olive oil, beating with the pestle and then switching to a wooden spoon. I reserved some of the olive oil for coating the pesto in the jar for preservation. I checked the taste and added a bit more salt. E la fine!
This is how basic it is! Enjoy the pesto with pasta, in salad dressings, in vegetable soups or with grilled/baked poultry! Or be creative with anything!