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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Susan M. Bell said...

OK, now I'm hungry.

Do you grate fresh Parmesan cheese, or use the canned type?

Also, do you always freeze your sauces or do you sometimes can them for the shelf? I've thought about trying canning, and I'm told tomatoes and tomato sauces are easier than other types of things.

I'm off to forage in the kitchen and it's all your fault. ;-)

Vicki Lane said...

The canned Parmesan would be my last choice. I bought pre-grated from the dairy case, just to make things go more quickly.

I freeze my sauces because they have onions and peppers and fresh herbs in them. Because of this, they would require a pressure canner and that's not something I've ever messed with. You can can plain tomatoes in just a hot water bath but as soon as you add other, less acid, vegetables, you need the pressure cooker for safety's sake.

Look for Ball's Blue Book of Canning and Freezing - a massively useful (and pretty cheap) book on the subject.

Pat in east TN said...

OK, now I'm hungry too!!! UGH!!!

I highly recommend Ball's Blue Book of Canning and Freezing too. Way back when I started all this stuff it was like my Bible, and it never let me down.

I spent a greater part of the day in my garden and berry patches, weeding and trimming and getting one area ready for my fall garden that I will plant shortly. I always give it a try and most of the time have good luck with the simple things like lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cabbage.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

I tried your roasted tomatoes today to put in the freezer. It was hard not to keep them and have them for supper. I'll try your pesto recipe, with the parsley. I've never done that before. I usually freeze some of my pesto in ice trays, so that I can take small portions out to add to soup, etc. I tried purple and cinnamon basil this year, too. Interesting. Now I think I'll try your tomato sauce recipe. Maybe tomorrow. Problem with freezing, instead of canning, is that I am running out of room in the freezer.
Nope I don't peel my tomatoes either. So glad to hear you don't mess with that.

Vicki Lane said...

Haven't done anything yet re fall garden, Pat -- though I have a couple of places ready.

Kay, my pesto recipe is an adaptation of one in THE MOOSEWOOD COOKBOOK -- a kind of hippie cookbook from twenty some years ago.

Tomato sauce addendum: for supper tonight, I chopped up an onion and a whole celery, sauteed them in olive oil, added some of that fresh tomato sauce, and when it was all hot, dumped in some defrosted, peeled shrimp. Two or three minutes later, the shrimp were curled and pink. Pour it over cooked rice -- presto! Shrimp creole!