The season is early this year, maybe due to excessive rain this summer. The basil has peaked and it has come time to harvest before it flowers out of control and begins to wilt and fade. It is time to put up the pesto for the winter, a ritual I have been performing for decades.
I didn’t start them from seed, but acquired this year’s batch from our local farmer’s market this past spring.
Pesto is one of our staples. It packs an incredible punch of green, while being rich and a little decadent at the same time. Having pesto in the freezer is like having green gold in your kitchen. Fresh in summer it is a treat. Pulling some out of the freezer for a quick meal, heaped on top of pasta, added to a baked potato, or as spread with crackers brings back a piece of summer during the long winter days.
Years back, while living on a farm, I grew such an abundance of basil that I donated much of it to a friend’s local restaurant, where it remained on the menu for the week. Now in a more urban setting, the row of four or five basil plants are interspersed among the tomatoes growing along the stockade fence which divides us from the neighbor. I didn’t think the basil would do well this year since the new fence cut back some morning light, but the plants thrived anyway.
There are also couple of smaller plants (kitchen plants close enough to the back steps that I can run outside in the rain or in the dark, any time, to grab a few leaves for cooking). What I have found is that each individual plant can taste different from the other. The origin of the plant, the sweetness of the soil, the amount of light and water – all these things seem to affect the taste of the basil, at least in my yard. Being a bit loose with measuring, each batch of pesto comes out slightly unique.
High in vitamins, pesto is also high in calories (because of the cheese, the olive oil, the pine nuts)…..just so you know. It can be so addicting, I can easily just sit there and eat it with a spoon. I have to stop myself. As we well know, just about everything that tastes good seems to be fattening……
A few days ago I came home from work and began making the first batch, finally stopping when I got tired. Tonight I put up a little more (and had some fresh for dinner) and later this week will finish up. The entire house is drenched in the pungent aroma of fresh basil, hands tingling from handling the leaves.
Here is my basic pesto recipe, proportions which can be loosely followed and expanded upon:
~*~ Daeja’s Pesto ~*~
3 tightly packed cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic
3 TB pignoli (pine) nuts
Salt and/or freshly ground pepper to taste
Blend ingredients (food processor works best; blender, mortar and pestle will do) until pulverized. Options include adding a small amount of lemon juice (which keeps it from browning). Walnuts work well as a substitute for the pignoli nuts. Can also go heavier on the garlic. Freezes well. Divide into meal size batches.
Heaven. Bliss. Sauce of the Goddesses.