Every year it is the same thing for me. I get the garden planted and then constantly stress out about how nothing is growing. Eventually I get so discouraged that I give up on the idea that anything will ever produce. Then a week later, I am totally inundated with crop X and I and wholly unprepared to deal with the amount of food it’s producing. This year has been no different. Cool season crops grow so slowly (or so quickly) that you kind of keep tabs on them through spring, but as soon as the heat of summer hits, I always scramble to figure out what to do with them! The kale is covered in aphids, but the ducks love both kale and aphids, so that’s been a pretty easy crop to “dispose” of. The peas have done all the growing they’re going to, and in the face of a week of days topping 90 degrees have begun drying out. The ducks have been greedily gobbling those down. Anything that gets tossed into their pen is systematically defoliated and all I have to do is collect a bundle of dried out stems weekly. They’re basically the cutest compost pile you’ve ever seen. With my move to rid the beds of dying cool season crops, I’ve been doing little more than pinch prune the tomatoes and keep training them on their strings. This morning, I looked outside and realized that I have 2 huge basil plants that are beginning to bolt (this means they’re blooming, and makes the basil take on a more anise-y flavor). That means that I need to use them right away! My favorite use for basil, besides caprese salad (and that’s still a month off as none of the tomatoes have ripened yet) is pesto.
But let us discuss pesto just a little bit. Typically, pesto is made with pine nuts. Pine nuts are delicious, but if you’ve ever heard of Pine Mouth you’ll probably think twice about eating them. Plus, they’re super expensive. And for things like pesto where the nuts are there primarily for texture, it’s difficult to tell the difference between them and many other types of nuts. So I always go with whatever nuts I have lying around the house. This time, it was sliced almonds that I toasted.
The trick with basil pesto is that it turns brown by oxidation so quickly. The only way to effectively prevent this is to not allow the pesto to have any access to oxygen (difficult in a home environment) or to blanch the basil, which is very easy in a home environment. I went with that. You basically toss the basil in boiling water, count to 10, ensure that it’s turned a bright green color, then drain. If you’re not worried about the pesto oxidizing (like you’re going to use it right away or don’t care if it turns brown – the flavor doesn’t degrade with the color), then don’t bother with blanching it.
6ish cups basil leaves, stems and flowers removed, blanched if you so desire.
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2-6 cloves garlic (depends on how much you like garlic)
1/2 cup toasted nuts
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil
Salt to taste
*Put your cheese, garlic, and nuts in the bowl of a food processor, and twirl until they’re pretty fine (technical term here – maybe uncooked couscous sized?)
*Add your basil, either blanched or otherwise
*Whirr the pesto ingredients and stream in olive oil until the pesto loosens up enough evenly process.
*Taste, add salt, and enjoy.
This pesto freezes beautifully. You can either freeze it as a solid block, or stick it in an ice cube tray, freeze, then stick the cubes of pesto into a resealable zip top bag and store in the freezer. Or put it all on everything you see for an entire week and then go into withdrawals because you’re out and the basil hasn’t bounced back enough to make another batch.