Don’t worry, though–it doesn’t seem to be a dangerous condition. Unless you’re terribly averse to being force-fed pesto if you come over to my farm for lunch or dinner (consider yourself duly warned).
I’ve always been fond of traditional Italian pesto-that magical mingling of fresh basil, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese. Not only is it healthful when devoured in moderation, but it’s fairly simple to prepare and freeze, then serve up in a snap on top of cooked pasta. It wasn’t until last summer, however, that I began expanding my pesto world out of sheer desperation. You see, I have a habit of over-compensating for my failures in other vegetable-growing areas by planting certain easy vegetables and herbs with a zealousness that implies the end of the civilized world (and all of its grocery stores) is coming. Before I know it, I’m forced to deal with a wine barrel crowded with use-or-lose cilantro, a raised bed crammed with lush arugula, AND a procession of kale or chard plants with leaves grown to the size of elephant ears (Asian, but still). I make soups and salads and green sautes and veggie quiches, I gift surplus to friends and the food bank, and still I have more of this healthy green food–food I hate to waste–left over.
Thank goodness for pesto, which it seems you can make from almost any green or herb. This year, consumed with pesto-mania, I made basil pesto, cilantro pesto, parsley pesto, arugula pesto, kale pesto, and Swiss chard pesto. I would have tried collards pesto, too, if I hadn’t kind of burnt out on making pesto. Next year, perhaps.
Making pesto is pretty easy, and any Italian cookbook worth its oregano should provide you with a basic pesto sauce recipe. My creative (or lazy, depending on how you look at it) strategy is to simply slosh a bunch of olive oil in my heavy duty blender, then dump in a heaping large spoonful of minced garlic, a handful of shredded Parmesan cheese, and a handful of walnuts. Walnuts are cheaper than pine nuts and just as tasty, I think; I’ve also used sunflower seeds.
Next, I fill the blender with washed, roughly chopped herbs or greens and get busy blending. Note: This would almost certainly be easier with a food processor, but alas, I don’t own one. Still, it’s way easier and faster than using the traditional mortar and pestle method, from which pesto derives its name. I’m careful to run the blender in short bursts, stopping frequently to stir and tamp down the herbs or greens so the tiny blender motor doesn’t overheat and explode or something. After everything transforms into mushy green sauce, I’ll sample and, if needed, add more garlic (or whatever) to taste. In my opinion, pesto can never have too much garlic, making it a handy vampire-repellent as well as delicious. You can either serve it fresh–we enjoy pesto on pasta, pizza, potatoes, and crackers–or freeze it in containers for a taste of summer all winter long.
Thanks for reading,