Pesto season

Pesto is one of the barometers of a Maine summer. Basil requires long days and hot afternoons to truly grow fat, glossy leaves that give off a distinctive, almost skunky aroma and some years we just don’t get that. 2010 is shaping up to be the best garden year in recent memory, and the pesto so far is A+.

I picked almost a kitchen-sized garbage bag of basil, mostly because I wanted to be able to start the recipe off with “a garbage bag of basil”. I prefer to harvest in mid-afternoon (the plants are free of dew and at their most fragrant), and I simply cut them back by two or three nodes. I use the stems and all, but I do remove blossoms and buds. They seem to make the final product slightly bitter.

Stuff the bowl of a food processor with leaves and stems. Drizzle with olive oil. Add 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1 clove garlic and 2 Tbs pine nuts (toasted in a frying pan first) per batch. If you will be adding all the batches together you can keep track and add all the seasonings at once at the end, but I find doing it by increments is easier. Process until smooth, adding more olive oil if necessary.

I have been amazed at the number of people who comment about the photos on this blog – generally about the objects in the background. Turns out food photographers are all about isolating the product – setting the stage with your recipe as the star, and not so much with the bottle of Chinese black vinegar that has nothing to do with the current recipe. As long as you read this blog, you’re going to see that vinegar on the back of the counter. Also the red wine, cassis, port and probably a roll of paper towels.  I don’t set these photos up, sadly, I just live here.

Cook your favorite pasta, drain and pour into a large serving bowl. Mix in about a cup of pesto per 6 servings, and some grated parm or asiago cheese.  If my mother isn’t coming over we like to add hot pepper flakes. Freeze the remaining pesto in freezer jelly jars to remember summer come some winter dinner.

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