‘Tis the Season (…Presto! PESTO!)

It’s here!
It’s all around You!
Fresh Basil!
Fresh Cherries!
Fresh Raspberries!
Melons!
Peaches!
Fresh Figs!
It won’t be for much Longer!
Have Some!

This is one of my Favorite times of year!
Click Here to read More about this Full Of Wonder Time of Year
Every Visit to a Farmer’s Market is like Christmas Morning!
The Earth and Mother Nature showering us with Abundance!
It is So Short Lived.
Like So Many of Life’s Gifts,
They come to us in Such Abrupt Abundance,
Are we Wise Enough to take Advantage of these Gifts while they are Given Us?
I know we’re busy.
But what does it take to stop at the Produce Stand on the way home from work, and to simply receive of Life’s Sweetness!
It is always of interest to me that Prices are Lowest when Produce is at its Sweetest!
Just like Life, when we Give the Most, we are at our Sweetest, and we need very little in return…
Enjoy!
Savor!
Delight!

Cherries are waning, but still around.
If you haven’t done so yet,
Get a pound,
Pit them,
and Freeze Them.
What a Delectable Midwinter Breakfast they shall make: Plain Greek Yoghurt with the addition of some chopped up frozen Cherries that have been picked at their peak of Sweetness!

Fresh Basil feels as if it is taking over the Planet!
What a HAPPY INVASION!
Good Little Italian Boy that I am, it’s time for PESTO!
Let’s Talk PESTO…

WASH IT!

I go to the Old Italian MarketPlaces.
Got this Brobdingnagian Bunch of Basilnego for ten bucks!
Wash it first!
I am a Triple Wash Kind of Guy.
But with Fresh Basil which Grows in the dirt — if the roots are still attached, cut them off — Then, I’ll go five times, or until the water runs clear!

Not Clear Yet…

SPIN IT!

I am often surprised at how many people do not know how to use a Salad Spinner.
It is not meant to be used as a Colander, merely rinsing the leaves.
Tear off the roots and base of the stems, and leaving the Colander Part aside for the moment, place the Basil (or whatever leaves) into the Bowl.
Fill the Bowl with Water and with your hand, gently move around the leaves immersed in the water, so that the dirt begins to detach and float away.
Then, using your hand, LIFT the Leaves up out of the water and place them into the Colander Part, Handful by Handful. (If you pour them out into the Colander, you are pouring the dirt back on top of the Leaves, as the dirt has been released into the water. So, we LIFT the Leaves out of the sandy water and place them into the Colander to drain by themselves!)
Then, dump out the dirty water (Make sure the Colander is not sitting in the sink, but somewhere safely away from the dirty water.)

Repeat this process, using fresh water, five times, or until the Water runs Clear.
Then Place the Colander (with the leaves inside) into the Bowl Base, put the lid in place, and Spin until dry!
(After an initial spin, you may need to lift the Colander out and dump the bit of water that has come off — then spin again.)
The leaves will be mostly dry.

Next, lay your Leaves out in a single layer onto paper towel, to absorb any excess water.
Your Basil is now ready to make Pesto!
At this point, you may gently fold the paper towels with the Leaves inside to place in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator if using a few hours later (I would not keep them like that more than a day without using them.)

Also, you can freeze Fresh Basil Leaves. They will become discolored to a dark green, but their flavor is still good for use in sauces and other cooked foods.
Just lay out the individual leaves flat and single layer onto a paper towel (close together is fine!); then place another paper towel on top and lay some more leaves in the same manner. You can do up to five layers this way, and then gently place the paper-towel-layered Basil Leaves into a zipper lock bag, and freeze flat. (They defrost very quickly, so when ready to use, only take out what you need and put the rest back immediately.)
I would not use frozen leaves for Pesto — only Fresh!

TOAST THE PIGNOLI NUTS!!!

One of the Secrets to a Good Pesto…
DO NOT BE A LAZY COOK!
There’s no Cooking involved in making this Sauce, anyway — Except for TOASTING THE PIGNOLI NUTS!
If you don’t, it’s easier, but your Sauce tastes like it has Ground Chalk in it!
PIGNOLI (or Pine Nuts) are Exceedingly Delicate, as they are So Tiny!
Treat them like Precious Jewels!
My friend S.L.I.M. came for dinner awhile back. He had been on Several Adventure/Survival Trips, dropped off in the middle of the Wilderness to find his way out in 45 Days.
I had toasted a few Pignoli Nuts for our Salad.
He looked at them with a deep appreciation.
He held a small handful — maybe about two tablespoons — in the cupped palm of his hand, and he told me, “It takes about two hours to yield about this many of these nuts when you are out in the Wilderness. I have a Deep Appreciation for these!”
I find it always JOYFUL to Vibrate in a state of Deep Appreciation while Cooking!
..or while doing Anything!

My Friend ANGELA taught me this Prayer as a Grace before Eating:

“God Bless to us this Bread,
And Give Bread to those who are Hungry,
And Hunger for Justice to those who are Fed.
God Bless to us this Bread.”

THE BASIC RECIPE

Here is the Basic Recipe I use for Pesto.
It was from the back of a Day Planner (“A Year of Pasta Recipes”)
From back in the Day when we used Day Planners.
For those who must follow a Recipe, this one will do.

But, like my Mother, I rarely follow a Recipe, and such as I do, I change it as I go.
I grew up in an era when Italian Immigrants such as my GrandMothers taught First Generation Italian Americans such as my Mother how to Cook.
I watched some of these Incredible Acts of Love & Caretaking & Immortality!
There were very few measurements involved.
It was such a sensual experience!
It was all about smells and tastes and textures and flavors.
This is how I cook!

I BLAME IT ALL ON BUTTAH

My Mother would adjust the Olive Oil measurement to one-half Olive Oil and one half Butter. This made for a richer flavor, but it also made it more perishable.
She would freeze it in small batches.
An Italian-American friend of my Father’s came to dinner once when she made it for him, and he explained that his Mother always had a jar of Pesto on the top shelf of the refrigerator, and she used it as flavoring in everything —
As a base for her tomato sauce…
Everything!
Of course, she did not use butter as it would have rendered the sauce more perishable.
He explained that she stored it in a large jar, always at the ready, with a thick layer (maybe ¼ inch) of olive oil on top — that kept the sauce from oxidizing and losing its fine Green Color and Fresh Flavor.

NUTS AND MORE NUTS

I double the Nuts.
(All of this is approximate and depends upon the Inspiration of my Hand in the moment, of course!)
Personally I like the texture of a nuttier Pesto.
(I also like Crunchy Peanut Butter — I don’t like Smooth!)
And Yes, you may use Almonds, Walnuts or even Pecans, if you prefer.
I find that about ¾ cup Pignoli combined with about ½ cup ground Almonds works best — the Almonds give a nice nutty texture, and the Pignoli provide the flavor.
Some purists prefer the subtle taste of the toasted Pignoli by itself.
Also, there are purists who prefer the smoothness of a Good subtle Pesto Sauce and would not be in favor of doubling the nuts, and that is fine too! (As long as the Basil is thoroughly Washed and the Nuts are Toasted.)

ANOTHER GREAT SECRET

I leave out the Grated Parmesan Cheese until the Sauce is ready to be served.
Then, once it’s defrosted and ready to use, I stir it in…
I learned some time ago that the Cheese is the only ingredient in Pesto that makes it significantly more Perishable.
So, if you leave it out of the recipe until ready to serve, the Shelf Life of the Sauce is exponentially extended, whether stored in the freezer, or the fridge.
(I have kept it in the freezer this way for over a year with no problem!)
Of course, be sure to remember to add the Parmesan when you defrost it and are ready to use it.

YET ANOTHER REALLY GREAT SECRET

I always toast a few extra Pignoli Nuts, and stir them in or sprinkle them on top when the sauce is completed and I have put it into whatever container I might put it into for Gift Giving!
Gift Giving?
What’s that you say?
YES!
What a Beautiful Gift a Batch of Homemade Pesto makes!
Make some, and watch your friends Light Up with Delight when you bring it to them!
There are two times when the Gift of a Fresh Batch of Pesto is appropriate:

  1. An Occasion.
  2. No Occasion

At either time, it is a Lovely Gift to Receive!

Oh, regarding the Toasted Pignoli Nuts stirred in at the end — they are there both for the seductive Good Look it adds to the Sauce, as well as to remind me:
When using the sauce and serving a dish with Pesto, it is Nice to Toast Up some fresh Pignoli Nuts and sprinkle them on top.
Such a Lovely Touch!

So, here is my revamped Personal Recipe for Pesto:
Uncle Arnies Pesto Sauce

Of course, MAMA always said, “When trying a New Recipe that you’ve never tried before, Always make the Recipe exactly as written first. Then, after you taste it, you can decide what you would like to change!”
So I might suggest starting with the simpler Recipe from the Day Planner up above and then, based on your own personal taste and liking, making adjustments and changes from there…

PESTO!
One of a Myriad of Beautiful Ways to
Celebrate Summer!
Celebrate Freshness!
Celebrate Fresh Greens!
Celebrate Life!

This marvelous Yip Harburg & Harold Arlen Tune often wafts through my mind at this time of year, with Lyrics such as…

“Cocoanut sweet,
Honeydew new,
Jasmine and cherry
And juniper berry,
That’s you.
Cocoanut sweet,
Buttercup true…
Shining with spice
And sugar plum…
Spring tumble out of the tree,
The peach is ripe, the lime is green,
The air is touched with tangerine
And cocoanut sweet,
Honeydew new…
The magic of cherry and berry
And cocoanut sweet.”

May You Live in Abundance and Sweetness and JOY!

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2 Comments

  1. What a wonderful song to play while stirring up one of your recipes. I love all these fruits, veggies, and pesto sauces. Tonight, I’m having veggie spaghetti with pesto. You’ve inspired me. That’s for sharing!

    Reply

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