These Pesto Crisps were born in a toaster oven. It was on a day when I craved a toasted cheese sandwich, and so laid slices of mozzarella on slices of bread with thick swaths of pesto. The slices were then slipped into the toaster oven to get toasty and broiled. Under that heat some pesto flowed over the edges and little pools of it bubbled and baked on the pan. I could not let these crisp little puddles go untasted. They were almost better than my sandwich: the savory pesto mellowed by the heat, the melted Parmesan forming a crisp crust. I couldn't wait to try them again (intentionally.)
The few experimental batches of just-pesto crisps seemed to be missing something, and the baking time needed to get them to crisp up satisfactorily left them an unappealing dark color.
Panko bread crumbs added to the regular pesto recipe give structure, lighten it and provide a toasted crunch.
The time in the oven mellows the garlicky bite of the pesto and melds the flavors. Even my pesto-disliking husband devoured several.
We enjoyed these crisps simply served with club crackers. They would also be attractive served on mini baguette slices, with a little dollop of crème fraîche on top.
Note: This recipe includes steps to blanch the basil before using it in the pesto. I like to take this step because it helps preserve the beautiful, bright green of the basil, which normally begins to darken as soon as the leaves are cut.
If you prefer you can skip this, reduce the amount of basil to 2 cups and proceed to step 5, adding the fresh leaves to the food processor.
- 4 cups fresh basil leaves
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1/4-cup pine nuts
- 1/2-cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/3-cup panko breadcrumbs
- Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan.
- Meanwhile, fill a medium bowl about halfway with cold water. Add several ice cubes to the cold water. Lay out a paper towel by the ice water bowl.
- Add the basil leaves to the boiling water and stir the gently for about 15 seconds. Immediately remove the leaves with a slotted spoon and submerge them in the ice bath, which will stop the cooking.
- Remove the leaves from the ice bath and transfer them to the paper towel. Use a second paper towel to gently press the water from the leaves, removing as much water as you can without damaging the basil.
- Place the basil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times until the ingredients are chopped and thoroughly combined, scraping down the sides as necessary.
- With the food processor running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream through the spout in the top. Watch the mixture carefully and add only enough oil to make a smooth, blended pesto.
- Scoop the pesto into a medium bowl and stir in the panko breadcrumbs.
- Preheat the oven to 375° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Line a cooling rack with a paper towel.
- Scoop out the pesto mixture in tablespoon-sized amounts and drop them on the parchment 2 inches apart. Use your fingers or the back of a spoon to flatten the scoops slightly.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes until the edges have begun to brown and they seem set. Carefully transfer the crisps with a spatula from the baking sheet to the paper-towel lined cooling rack. (The paper towel will absorb oil from the bottoms.) Serve while still warm or at room temperature.
Makes about 30 crisps.