December 15, 2012

Basil Pesto

Yesterday I spent the day in the kitchen - my cocoon of warmth and beautiful smells and comfort.

I was prepping for a dinner party for people who hadn’t been to our kitchen, who hadn’t sat at our family table – people I wanted to bring into our home and enjoy a meal.

Oblivious to the news, I had checked the twitter headlines in the morning…a teacher shot somewhere like Connecticut…oh…you know…sadly, it’s the States…I got on with what I had to do.

Ironically, when you’re cooking on deadline, surrounded by piles of vegetables and meat and spices and herbs, you don’t tend to eat yourself. I finally sat down for a bite at about 2pm.

That’s when I pulled out the computer to catch up on what the world was up to…that’s when I discovered the world had shuddered to a stop – that a very, very disturbed young man had ended his life by taking the lives of so many others, in a little place called Newtown, and with the added shock and horror that he took little ones, and those who care for them every day, with him.

With all the other shootings that have happened my shoulders have slumped in despair and I’ve said nothing will change…this won’t change anything.

But I’ve had it. Enough. Effect change people – I would like to see a cultural turn of mind away from the gun…and I wonder if it can happen.

One of my favourite journalism people Al Tompkins at the Poynter Institute has some interesting stats for journalists who are covering this tragedy. But they’re good for everyone to absorb – it gives us all some context.

In the New Yorker Jill Lepore wrote, "There is no solace to be found, not in the crushing, aching sympathy felt by everyone on hearing the story, not in the candlelit vigils, not in the agony of the President, who, during a press conference, winced, and was nearly overcome. This is the face of a nation undone."

It will take some time to wrestle our souls and minds into understanding the horrible nexus where an obsessive gun culture meets mental illness that fuels horrible, horrible anger.


I will write about what we ate last night – a lovely recipe for tagine (yes, another) and a beautiful lasagna, I’ve written about before. But not now.

Now I need to write about something basic – a backbone to cooking that is magical.

Basil Pesto – adapted from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen

I love Mollie’s book – it was my first cookbook when all this food thing started – I particularly love Mollie’s drawings.

The first time I made this I didn’t have a food processor. I crushed everything in a bowl pretending to be the mortar, and the bottom of a glass pretending to be the pestle (yup it’s pronounced pessel). It was excruciating.

It was the reason I bought a food processor. The first recipe I made in it was the pesto. I put in the ingredients, I pressed 'on'. After a few seconds I pressed 'off'. I just stood there looking at it in the bowl, I pressed 'stunned'.

I lost that food processor in a breakup with a boyfriend. And with the loss of the appliance went my memory of this recipe. Because I wasn’t going back to the bowl mortar and glass pestle.The pesto had to wait.

Well, thanks to my credit card company I scored another food processor on reward points a couple of weeks ago.

And then in need of a vegetarian dish for last night, karma created the perfect reason to make pesto again. So the first recipe I made in my new processor was, once again, pesto.

This makes 2 1/2 – 3 cups (although when I cut it in half yesterday I yielded only one cup of pesto – which was fine as that’s what I needed)

3 cups of packed fresh basil leaves (no stems)
3-4 garlic cloves
¼ - ½ tsp salt
¾ cup grated parmesan cheese (no, the fresh kind…)
¼ cup pulverized (I used pine nuts, but I think any nut would do)
½ cup olive oil

These are optional add-ons:
½ cup packed fresh parsley
¼ cup melted butter
freshly-ground black pepper

So, given my new love of the food processor…pull out either your food processor or even your blender – you can make basil smoothies later.

This is so easy it’s stupid.

Put the ingredients in the bowl with the steel blade fitted, put on the lid, hit 'on'…and let it whirr away until you have a uniform paste.(I stopped it a few seconds in to push down the stuff that had crawled up the sides of the bowl.)

The smell and look of this magical mixture will blow your senses. You can mix with cooked pasta – to taste. (Be careful with pesto – I find it’s one of those beautiful ingredients that can become too much too fast…so consider yourself warned.)

Or you can freeze it - put some in an ice cube tray - then you'll have portion sizes ready to go rather than a big green block.

 If you make this, please let me know. Share it with your family and friends – food is a form of love. And most of all people – peace.

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