My Mortar and Pestle Went on Strike!
I recently bought a large granite mortar and pestle to add to my collection so I could make pesto. The other two are just too small and I was tired of using the baby food maker since we don't have a processor.
Today I attempted pesto and I couldn't get the darn basil leaves to grind down into a paste. They just stayed whole and looked super wilted. I kept going, adding each of the ingredients hoping there would be a magic step!
Yep, I ended up with wilted basil float in olive oil. It was the saddest excuse for a pesto I've ever seen! Luckily everyone in my family have a stomach virus and wouldn't have been able to eat it anyway. I'd have been super embarrassed the serve it up!
Any idea where I went wrong?
I have been making pesto in a M&P for years and much prefer the texture and flavor over using the FP as I used to, plus there's something much more satisfying about using it. I have never had this problem so will outline my method. I keep to the traditional basil, pine nuts, parmesan or hard pecorino (or ideally a mix), garlic, EVOO and S&P.
I start off grinding (pestling?) the chopped garlic and pine nuts, then add the basil (larger stems removed and leaves roughly torn up) and enough EVOO to just moisten the mix. Then I pestle as long as it takes to produce a rough but well mixed texture adding EVOO as necessary, it does take quite a few minutes to break down the basil leaves. I then add the cheese ready grated (a little shortcut this) and then more EVOO to get to the liquidity I want, finally I season it. Hope this helps, do keep trying, its worth it!
Could it be the interior surface of your new granite M&P is simply too smooth? Ours is a traditional stone (ulekan) with a slightly coarse grain. We've put tons of basil from our garden through it his summer; the leaves start to break down within seconds.