Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Will the rain ever let up?

We in the southeastern United States have been seeing rain for more than a week without much of a break. It's led to deaths and plenty of destruction. For us, it's meant lost work and too many days inside.... both of which are hard on our family in this teeny tiny little house. This is the time of year when we are exploring for mushrooms along the trail, picking up the first turning leaves, and enjoying the last of what our garden has to give us. Instead, yesterday, I decided to "save" some of our basil from the constant rain. Plus, my little guy was sick so it was a good indoor activity... pesto makin' time.

Most years I wait until October and have to cut all the basil plants at the base to keep them from the first frost. It' not that I'm a last minute girl, but when making pesto, you can be lazy. Basil doesn't get too ripe like a tomato or fruit. Nor does it get too tough like a bean. It's generally pretty darn forgiving, so in terms of "putting food by", pesto has always been my tried and true.

Thirteen years ago, my friend Marilyn taught me how to make pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays. We've been doing it ever since. We have 8-10 plants every year so that we can have pesto until the next summer's bounty. Easy peasy.... if you have a food processor. This is what you throw in until it tastes right:

garlic cloves
olive oil
pine nuts or walnuts
sea salt and black pepper
little bit of lemon juice

I grate my parm from a huge block with the processor and set that aside. Then I process the garlic cloves with the olive oil until they are minced very fine. I add nuts. I process and add oil as needed. Then I start adding in basil leaves, stripping them from the stalks in huge piles. (Think production.) The stalks will be too tough, but of course, everything else about a basil plant tastes great. Don't get too freaked out as long as it's clean and free of bugs and dirt.... but, even then... you aren't going to die. When I've got what looks like good consistency in oil and basil, I add in sea salt and black pepper to taste. I use a little bit of lemon juice to help keep the basil nice and green. At the very end I add the cheese. I've found that it can be very easy to add more cheese than is really tasteful or necessary if you start with it at the front end. (This may be because I'm a total cheese addict. One year, I used yellow miso instead, when I was not doing dairy.)

I think this is one of the most amazing food "activities" you can do with kids. There are no eggs and kids are great strippers of basil off the stalk. They have so much fun. Plus, they can push the button on the processor again and again. It's loads of fun and a natural activity for following directions. There is something for kids about following the instruction to turn an appliance "on" and "off" that feels like huge responsibility to them. Because the processor blade is enclosed and the appliance can't be turned on unless the lid is locked in place, it's nice and safe for even really young guys. Perfect, if you ask me. Pesto. Entertainment. From the garden. Summer flav in the winter. Does it get better? Well, now, if the rain would let up...


Cheryl Arkison said...

Yum! Just heard about those rains last night. And we're getting record heat here.

Anonymous said...

So if I cut my basil down to the ground, or an inch or so above, it will winter over??

That would be just too fantastic!

Melissa said...

I've always wondered about freezing it with the cheese and oil-- Joy of Cooking says it's a no-no, which means I put up a lot less pesto than I want to. For some reason this year our plants never took off at all-- they stayed so tiny-- but I have enough to put up a couple of trays full, at least. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

We have been having a week of rain, hail and cold weather here too in South of Australia. I love your blog and also love to see you doing all those summer activities that we will soon be enjoying. Cant wait for pesto! Thanks again for the children's bags.
from Kerrie in Australia

Noreen said...

Me again!! Thanks, I so needed inspiration to make pesto with all the basil in my tiny garden here in Charlotte. I just need those kids to help me.....please send them asap:). Hey, we are going to be up the weekend of the 8th. Loved hearing about your "girlfriend sewing" get-away, sounded so perfect for you. Funny how life goes.....so yeah, when your my age you go to "Silent Retreat" weekends. I did that last weekend in Hot Springs...can't wait to tell you more about it. The rain was perfect for silence in meditation! Love you Brown Robin!!

Anonymous said...

Noreen, was that Hot Springs, VA?

Noreen said...

Annette, That was Hot Springs, NC about an hour NW of Asheville. It is called The Southern Dharma Retreat Center and is nestled in a 130-acre forest preserve adjacent to a part of the Pisgah Nat. Forest. Check it out on-line it's a magical place and very reasonably priced. The couple that led the one I attended are from Blk. Mtn. "The TOy's". Do you know of them? They are a part of Cloud Cottage Sangha or the owners...not sure. Anyway, I loved being at SDRC and highly recommend it.