Except maybe tomato vines, or cilantro? Or fresh cut grass…
But basil is right up there at the top of my favorites, so I picked up a big bunch of it at the farmers’ market the other day. It doesn’t last long, once picked, so you’d better figure out something to do with it, and quick. You can only do so much with it fresh before it’s no good anymore. And so, as I usually do in the summer, I made pesto.
I love to make pesto. I understand perfectly well that pesto can be made from anything. That it’s not limited to basil or a certain kind of nuts, or really anything. But I like for it to taste a certain way that is familiar to me and sort of comforting. One of my familiar tastes of summer.
Here’s what I do: I pick the leaves from a bunch of basil and rinse them, then I bring a pot of water to boiling. When it’s boiling, I add the leaves and wait for the water to return to boiling, then let them boil for about a minute. I quickly remove them from the heat, turn them into a colander, and run cold water on them to stop the cooking. This keeps them nice and green in your sauce. Drain the water well (and by this, I mean get your hands in there and squish it out). In your food processor, add several cloves of garlic (this is an art, not a science, people. You have to make it taste like you like. But I do about 3), some good quality parmesan (though I usually go for domestic because it’s much less expensive per pound. Save the good imported Italian stuff for when you are eating it straight with a nice red wine and can savor those little crunchy crystals…). Chop those up nicely in your food processor, then add some pecans and do the same. Next, add the basil, then a little sea salt. Now, the fun part: while your food processor is running, pour in olive oil until this chunky mixture turns into a lovely paste. One you can envision smearing onto a baguette and then toasting. Or onto chicken thighs as they are roasting. Or, my favorite: mixing into a batch of roasted zucchini, summer squash, and maybe peppers… heaven. Take that pesto/vegetable mixture and heap it onto a pile of cool, crunchy Romaine for an amazing summer salad.
To recap the ingredients:
Yes, that’s it.
Add a chilled Rose wine, and as far as I’m concerned, you have summertime, in its essence, on your table.
La vie est bonne.
* You’re going to have a lot of pesto, but that’s okay. Buy those little tiny mason jars that are so cute, and that you’ve seen and yet wondered what on earth you could possibly do with them. The pesto that you do not eat immediately will freeze beautifully in these tiny jars, topped with a thin layer of olive oil. This will keep a long time in your freezer, and will allow you to remember what summertime tasted like, even in January when you think that it will never be summer again.