Goodbye, Summer. I’ll See You in my Freezer
During the long Rochester winters, what I miss most about the summer is my garden. One fall day in early October, when my older son was very small, he accompanied me into the garden as I pulled out the last annuals and put the soil to bed.
As I yanked out the last withering tomato plant, he burst into tears and cried:
“It’s really OVER!!”
One of the favorite dishes of summer for my family that smells as good as it tastes is Pesto.
Take one leaf of basil and rub it between your fingers. The powerful scent it gives off is the stuff of summer. Then, when it is crushed into a paste and mixed with pine nuts, olive oil and cheese, it makes any boring pasta meal a celebration.
To live without basil all winter would be too cruel a reality.
Sure, you can buy yourself some hydroponically-grown basil in the middle of January. One plant, that has about 20 good leaves on it, will cost about 2.99 these days at the supermarket.
You can get out to your nearest public market, like the Rochester Public Market, one of the world’s greatest public spaces. Buy the biggest bunch of basil you can find for about $1.50. It will be waiting for you in a big bucket filled with water and if it’s fresh, will still have the roots attached, dirt and all.
Then, take this green bouquet home. It’s so pretty you may want to photograph it, like I did:
It isn’t long before basil leaves wither. As harsh as it may seem, pick all those leaves off (I amassed 3 cups of basil leaves with this bunch), wash them well in a colander, and place them in a food processor.
I also put in three cloves of garlic that I roasted. Roasting the garlic cloves brings out their sweetness.
Add to this puree 1/3 cup of some very good olive oil and 1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts or walnuts. You can add 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese here, but this can be added when you are ready to use your Pesto.
Then, pour the mixture into an ice-cube tray sprayed with cooking oil. (My children think this is very strange and have at times placed a pesto cube, in error, into their water. I don’t recommend this.)