Have you ever been to one of those fancypants gourmet food shops, spotted a beautiful beribboned jar of something delicious, picked it up lovingly... and then had a heart attack when you saw the price sticker? We've all been there, but there's no reason you can't create your own DIY versions of those costly epicurean delights for just a few bucks to give as a wonderful, homemade gift. We all know that people love receiving edible presents, and a gift basket with a couple of fancy pestos or sauces makes a special treat for friends and family you might visit over the summer. All you need to get started are a few fresh ingredients and a plain old glass jar—like the one that you were about to toss in the recycling bin.
For the packaging:
- A glass jar (we used a stout artichoke jar but you can use any jar you like)
- A rubber band
- A square of recycled fabric or tissue paper that will fit over the lid
- A ribbon (we used one that we had from an old box of chocolates)
- A nice label or a piece of white paper on which to write either your name, or the recipient’s
For the pesto (we like pesto but you can use any sauce or homemade food you like):
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup pine nuts, walnuts, or sunflower seeds
- 3 medium-sized garlic cloves, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup parmigiano-reggiano or romano cheese (leave this out if you’d like your pesto to be vegan, or you could use vegan cheese, or even a tablespoon of nutritional yeast instead)
Remember that pesto can be made with pretty much any leafy green, with any combination of nuts, garlic (or onion) and cheese (dairy or vegan) that you like. Experimenting with different ingredients can yield some pretty incredible results, so feel free to get creative in the kitchen! Try adding some spinach to the mixture, or using almonds or pistachios instead of pine nuts or walnuts. You can also use herbs other than basil! Cilantro and pumpkin seed pesto has a vibrant, unique flavor, and arugula-lemon pesto is downright addictive.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you could also try making pesto with some of the wild greens that grow wild in your area. There are many edibles that can be foraged just about anywhere, but be sure to do your research before eating them just to make sure that what you’re eating is safe. Some commonly foraged edible greens include:
In a food processor or blender, grind up your pine or walnuts until they’re coarsely chopped.
Next, add the rest of your ingredients except for the olive oil. Then, start blending them slowly while drizzling your olive oil in gradually. Keep blending until all the ingredients are well incorporated and you have a mixture that looks like, well, pesto! Taste a bit of your pesto and add salt and pepper as needed.
Make sure that your recycled glass jar is nice and clean and dry. Then fill it up almost to the top with your pesto and pop the lid on tightly.
Next, cut a square of remnant fabric or even soft paper to fit your lid. We cut ours from some thin paper left over from a bouquet of flowers so we used a few layers instead of one. If your fabric is thick enough, one layer should do. Place it over your lid to make sure it fits.
Then place a rubber band over the top of your fabric to secure it. Tie the ribbon over the band to hide it.
Last, pop a label or tape a piece of paper onto the front of your jar and label it “[your name here]’s Pesto”. or write in the recipient’s name. There you have it! A yummy, “gourmet” gift that any foodie would love. (As a bonus, you get to eat any pesto that’s left over! Try it on cold pasta salad, as a spread in your favorite sandwich, or as a marinade for veggie BBQ skewers.)