Putting Up: Part 1

dining hpPesto pasta was a quick dinner when my kids were growing up. The sauce latched nicely into the ridges of radiatore pasta, to which I added some steamed vegetables and leftover bits of meat.

So it’s the first day of September and I, disguised as Noni Sarducci, stepped into the kitchen to engage in the time-honored tradition of summer preservation. It’s the season to make basil pesto, which keeps wonderfully in the freezer.

Perched on a tall school at the kitchen island, I pinched tender green leaves from their woody stalks between my thumbnail and forefinger. It took 45 minutes to strip six large farmers market bunches, which yielded 12 cups of moderately packed leaves.

Pine nuts have a certain sweetness, and since they are actually seeds, can be eaten by many people with nut allergies. I toast them first, in a dry pan over medium heat. When you see the seeds start to sweat their oil, it’s time to stir continuously until they are nicely tanned, and then remove them from the pan immediately to avoid burning.

To my standard-sized food processor, I added 4 moderately packed cups of leaves, 8 large cloves of peeled garlic (you might prefer fewer), 1/4 cup olive oil, 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, 2 tablespoons water, and 1 teaspoon garlic salt, and then processed until everything was finely chopped. I added second and third batches right on top of the first, making five cups of pesto.

Many people stop here, but I place it in the blender to get a pretty sea green, homogenous paste. Then I pack it into 1/4 cup reusable, air-tight containers, and since basil oxidizes to a horrifying black color, add a thin layer of olive oil to completely cover the surface.

I imagined generations of grandmothers communally preserving their harvest, and thought that perhaps one year, my son and daughter might visit; their hands and stories making quick work out of the task. | KP

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