Words and pictures from the author of the Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Today was deliciously cool -- amazing for August -- making a day in the kitchen seem not too bad. I had picked tomatoes early in the morning and had an abundance to deal with -- here are plum tomatoes filling three baking trays in the oven and a quantity of those great Cherokee Purples to make into tomato sauce for the freezer. The white plastic bag in front of the fan -- full of sweet basil and Italian parsley -- is waiting to be whirred into pesto.
Pesto is a much better way to deal with an abundance of basil in the garden than trying to dry it. This keeps at least a year in the freezer – and for months in the refrigerator. (Pine nuts are traditional but usually rather expensive and sometimes a bit rancid as they have a short shelf life. So I use almonds.)
Here are the ingredients -- the amounts are just a suggestion; you can adjust them to your taste.
3 packed cups fresh basil leaves (no stems) 1 cup packed fresh parsley leaves (can substitute more basil if you prefer) 4 larges cloves fresh (peeled) garlic (not elephant garlic; it’s too mild) ¾ cup grated parmesan (or romano or asiago) ½ c. pine nuts, walnuts, raw, unblanched almonds, or hulled sunflower seeds (or any combination thereof) salt to taste, or none at all ¾ c. olive oil (extra-virgin, if you want to be really fancy, but any pure olive oil will do just fine)
Put all ingredients into a blender or a food processor. The food processor will quickly produce a smooth paste – the blender will require a little coaxing and stopping and starting and rearranging the contents with a spatula before the paste is achieved. In fact, dealing with vast quantities of fresh basil every summer is what finally convinced me I needed a food processor.
Put finished pesto in half pint jelly jars and store in the freezer. This is wonderful to have on hand for pizza or clam spaghetti or stromboli or any number of delightful dishes.
My tomato sauce starts with sauteeing chopped onions, green and hot peppers, and lots of garlic in olive oil. Then I add the tomatoes, unpeeled (I'm lazy and not picky and I know they weren't sprayed) and cut in big chunks. The Cherokee Purples are extremely juicy so no additional liquid was needed -- if I'd been using plum tomatoes, I'd have added water and/or red wine.
Then some salt, to taste, and handfuls of fresh, chopped parsley, basil, and oregano, along with some dried Italian seasoning for good measure. Simmer till thickened but be careful it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot and scorch. Cool, put in freezer containers, and freeze. This is a great base for soup, spaghetti sauce (add some tomato paste), chili . . .
And you already know about the roasted tomatoes.
One busy day in the kitchen -- but it'll provide a taste of summer memories in the cold months ahead.
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