Summertime provides gardeners an opportunity to get our hands back in the warm soil…to feel the earth and smell the richness of her fertility. Cultivating soil and nurturing seed to mature food crops holds a certain restorative quality. I think it is good for the soul. I do some of my best thinking in the garden.
For children, spending time in the garden can be an experience of great wonderment! There are colorful blossoms on the plants that seemingly appear overnight! The magical sounds of songbirds fill the air. And there is dirt to play in!
Another reason that I like to garden is because I like to eat! Doesn’t everyone? Summertime offers us the bounty of fresh, local fruits and vegetables. There is nothing that compares to the taste of freshly picked corn or peas. These two crops convert most of their natural sugars into starch almost immediately after being harvested. Tomatoes from a home garden or roadside farm stand are unparallelled in their robust flavor. The produce offered year round in the grocery store just can not match the taste and freshness of home grown.
Fresh basil is a pungent and intoxicating herb when it is fresh but it loses much of its gusto when dried. To preserve a little of that sweet taste of summer I like to make Pesto and store it in the freezer for use in the dreary days of winter. Here is some information about Pesto, its history and origins.
The basic recipe I use is;
2 cups of fresh basil leaves (no stems)
Wash the basil leaves and shake off as much water as you can.
1/2 cup of pine nuts or walnuts (I use walnuts because they are less expensive and more widely available. I also prefer the taste of walnuts.)
3 medium cloves of garlic
Peel and crush the garlic.
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
Combine the nuts, cheese, basil and garlic in the food processor and process this to a rough paste. Wipe down the inside edge of the bowl.
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil (I use organic cold pressed oils)
With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil until the texture becomes smoother. It should look like green baby food.
Salt and pepper to taste
You can see a step by step series of pictures for this process by following this link to the gallery.
I store this mixture in half pint containers in the freezer. A half pint of pesto will serve 3 to 4 people with pasta and a salad and bread. A fantastic meatless meal!
Made this way, pesto will store in the freezer for 6+ months.
Pesto is also quite good as a baking crust on fish or chicken.