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August 15, 2022

Ohh, Pesto!

By Sand Pilarski

Earlier this summer, my beloved daughter appeared to lose her mind and began to ramble on and on and on about an organic vegetable co-op in the area. The rest of the family stuck fingers in ears and began to sing, "La la la la, can't hear you!"

In response, she made posterboard signs that said, "Real veggies from REAL gardens!" and "A different selection every week!" While she was at work, I put the signs in the paper recycling bin down town, and left her markers in the hot summer sun so that they would dry out.

This family does not have good vegetable habits. The son-in-law, if asked if he had any vegetables with dinner, would proudly point to a heap of jalapeno peppers and a pint of black olives. The husband, asked the same question, would answer, "No, but we were out of corn." Of course I have a broader viewpoint: if asked about my vegetable preferences, I would say, "If you've got cucumbers, tomatoes, and iceberg lettuce, you have everything."

Okay, not quite true. The husband and I also have a penchant for brussels sprouts, which makes the son-in-law go sit in the car in the driveway until they are done cooking and the kitchen has aired out. I think the only vegetable we all agree on is sauerkraut, if it is stewed with pork and has dumplings floating on it.

Wait. The granddaughter doesn't care for kraut; she's strictly a corn or tomatoes kind of person.

So while we all la-la-la'd and hid behind shrubs so as not to hear about the veggie co-op, the daughter signed us up. Mere days later, the dogs bayed and snarled and tried their best to discourage the delivery of the first batch of co-op vegetables, to no avail. A tray of fresh-from-the-garden vegetables was placed on the kitchen counter.

"The potatoes have dirt on them!"

"What's that green stuff on top of the carrots?"

"There's a spider on the lettuce!"

After the initial surprise, we settled into a habit of perplexed study each Wednesday afternoon, trying to guess the identity of non-uniformly shaped vegetables, and cringing at the sight of vegetable matter that we would not have poked with a stick in the grocery store.

"What the heck is that?"

"Kohlrabi."

"What's it used for?"

"Danged if I know, ask your wife. This was her idea."

In point of fact, and in all fairness, had I known how delicious the kohlrabi would be, I would have bitten someone on the leg in order to hog it all for myself. The tomatoes that were delivered were tender and exploding with flavor. The sweet corn was heavenly. The turnips -- oh, Lord, the turnips, simmered with potatoes and beef chunks, were bliss. From "What the hell is that supposed to be?" directed at the delivered trays of vegetables, we went to asking, "What the hell is the stuff they're selling in the store?"

And thus, when Farmer Bob appeared at the door yesterday with a tray of veggies that included a huge bunch of basil, I snatched it up and declared that I would make pesto from it.

This I did today, after perusing numerous pesto recipes on line and in cookbooks.

Attempting to replicate, or at least call to mind the dish "Prawns Genovese" from the long-lost Fisherman's Wharf restaurant called "Dante's", I slathered prawns with the pesto and served them with rice. The husband tasted it, fell on the floor, picked himself up, and said, "Well, that kind of puts an end to store-bought pesto, doesn't it?"

"Yeah," I answered. "Who knew?"

I never knew I could actually make pesto. Or that it could be so easy. Or so, so good.

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups packed basil leaves
1 cup packed spinach leaves
4 fat cloves of garlic
1/2 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup parmesan/romano cheese (freshly grated or powdered)
1 teaspoon (or less) salt

DIRECTIONS:

In a food processor, chop the nuts and garlic to a paste. Add the spinach and basil and pulse the processor until they are all nicely like a paste. While the processor is on, add the olive oil in a slow stream. Scrape down the sides of the processor with a spatula; add the cheese and salt (to taste) and pulse until smoothly mixed.

Oohhh, so good.

Author's Note: The son-in-law purloined a heaping tablespoon of the pesto. He then melted butter in a saucepan, maybe a tablespoon of that, too, and mixed the pesto into it. Then he added a half cup of beer, and stirred it. And then he slathered it over a split loaf of french bread and broiled it until the surface was lightly browned. Wow, just outstanding flavor!

Article © Sand Pilarski. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-08-25
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