Basil from Elaine's garden
Life can be chaotic. My sister Elaine has a little garden in front of her apartment to give her something to tend, admire, and use in her world that’s always changing. One of the things she planted this year was basil. Coinciding with my sister sending me some photos of her basil were some thoughts on food from my friend, Jen. Jen vented her disappointment with many people’s increased need to be “fancy” with cooking or eating out.
So this is a post about simplicity.
I think one of the big reasons I love Anthony Bourdain is because it seems that in almost every episode of “No Reservations”, he emphasizes the love he has for simple, delicious food. Street food, food from holes in the wall. Stuff that isn’t overly ornate. Food you can talk over, not let dominate the conversation. He’s a guy from New Jersey, I’m from New Jersey – I know where he’s coming from with his feelings about food.
Why basil? Basil is a charmer. It’s in from cuisine from Italy to Thailand. It’s sweet and aromatic, but goes well with so many lovely things. Cheese? Chicken? Ice cream? Yes, yes, yes. ( But not all together now, that’s verging on the vulgar.)
I love basil, but like a loyal long-term boyfriend, I sometimes don’t appreciate it as much as I should. I love it because it always works with what I’m trying to make. It’s always available at the grocery store, so I am sometimes lax about planting it as much as I used to. I did grow it almost every year when I lived in New Jersey. But when basil refused to flourish in Florida’s intensely humid climate, I gave up on it. Now I’m in Seattle, where there’s a bit more chance for luck with growing it, but the season is very short. Basil really does love the sun.
Regardless of watercress, radish green, or other adaptations of traditional pesto, there is only one true pesto in my heart. If you’ve seen Hedwig and the Angry Inch, sing it with me sisters – “Sugar Daddy, bring it home!”. Only with basil, honey.
2 cups basil leaves
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (use good quality cheese!)
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
4 large olive cloves, minced
Add basil leaves, garlic, and pine nuts to a food processor. Turn on high speed and slowly pour a stream of olive oil into the machine until incorporated. Add cheese and pulse a few more times. Sample the paste, and add salt to taste.
One final point – I really love garlic, and I really love olive oil. Tone down those amounts if you don’t feel the same as me!