Wednesday, June 22, 2016

For This I Live

All seven varieties of basil in my garden have leafed out beautifully in response to the regular heat of the new summer, but knowing what is to come - the dreaded and inevitable black mildew - I am wasting no time.
Today before sunrise (the oil in the leaves is strongest at this time) I took in a large bowl of it. I also clipped some parsely, sage, oregano, savory, arugula and thyme because, well, there it was, all green and leafy and ready to be mixed in with the basil to produce a unique pesto. Last week I dug up some young garlic. Fresh garlic has a mellow flavor (like a seminarian's neck.) It is difficult to peel because its skin isn't crispy, but if I can't give time to such a celestial ritual, what should I be doing? Our supermarket here in this less than chic suburb hasn't started the seasonal stocking of pine nuts, so I am using walnuts and no one would be the wiser If I hadn't said so. Cheaper, too. The olive oil is virgin but nothing too fancy. (It's not the violin, it's the bassoon.)
I added two dried Carolina Reaper hot peppers from last season to the black peppercorns when I ground them up, being sure to use rubber gloves rather than risk ruining yet another pair of contact lenses. Never able to decide whether I prefer parmigiano or pecorino romano cheese, I throw in some of both. I can't tell you the relative measurements. I just keep adding things until I get the color, consistency and taste I like. The result is very thick and smooth, not like commercial pesto which is really just oil with some bits swirled in. I can always add more oil when it is decanted. I spoon the pesto into jars provided by my husband who buys a particularly precious and pricey yogurt called "White Moustache" (available at Cafe/Bar Boulud across from Lincoln Center) that comes in perfect jars for freezing pesto.
I filled seven of these, six of which went into the freezer, destined to make the trip south with me to Fort Lauderdale in November where I will taste my summer garden throughout the winter and inflict friends with them rather than arrive at their doors with the usual bottle of wine. I drizzle some olive oil on top of the pesto before putting on the lid. I don't know why I do this. Instinct, or maybe something I once saw my grandmother do. I think it seals and protects it.
I'll be making several more batches, each one different, until the mildew shuts down the factory. For this I live. And now I am stationed in the full sun, like bright laundry on a clothesline, snappy and chattering with the neighbors, chiding the chipmunks and ready.

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