Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Pesto (and an Accidental Feast)

I don't know how other people make pesto. There are probably recipes and ratios and methods I should know about. But I don't. There are probably entire villages of Italian grandmothers feeling shivers up their collective spine as I reach for my Little Pro Plus (TM). But I don't care. I just make it so it tastes good. And besides, how far wrong can you go?
This is what I do: I ask someone in produce for half a bunch of basil. (For some reason they don't keep it on the floor so you have to ask for it.) Sometimes I get half a bunch; sometimes I get a whole bunch with a 'reduced' sticker on it, like I did today. (Thank you.) I take it home and wash it, because I didn't once and ate gritty pesto for a week. I pick the leaves from the stems and put them in my food processor and then go about collecting the other ingredients. You'll need garlic. Today I used 4 cloves, because it seemed right. I started with three, tasted the result, then added one more. Nuts of some description are required, though pine nuts are not necessary. I used a handful of crispy walnuts, though not as many as I might have--I'm running low and wanted some to put in my oats tomorrow. (The pesto was none the worse for it and breakfast will be better.) And cheese. You'll want some parmesan. I still had some 'Ferrari of the Parmesans' in the fridge so I grated a good handful of that and tossed it in the processor. Bit of salt, bit of pepper, and you're ready to go. I turn on the processor and drizzle the olive oil into it in a steady stream until the pesto looks happy. I really have no idea how much I used tonight. Use your judgement. If it looks too dry to you, it probably is. Add more oil. Give your pesto a taste and adjust it accordingly, knowing the flavors will marry and mature as it sits. More garlic? Pinch more salt? Just right? Then bottle it up, remembering to drizzle a layer of olive oil on top so it doesn't discolor. I always feel better knowing there's a jar of pesto in the fridge.
I roasted a chicken this afternoon before making pesto. I like to have some roast chicken in the fridge. It makes taking dinner to work that much easier and the possibilities with leftover chicken are endless. But, anyway, I roasted a chicken. I usually eat one of the more distinguishable parts on the first night, saving the scraps from the carcass for pasties or a pie or a salad, but tonight I did it differently. As I was carving my chicken and putting it in a dish for the fridge I thought, 'Why not save all the best bits for later, put an entire chicken worth of parts in the fridge, and have the scraps tonight.' So that's what I did. I boiled 2 ounces of this delicious pasta made with Jerusalem artichoke flour, sautéed 4 spears of asparagus with a quarter of a red bell pepper ('cause that's what I had left of one), tossed in the oysters of the chicken along with other assorted scraps from the carcass, added a very heaping soup spoon of fresh pesto to the pan followed by the noodles and some of their cooking water and ate like a king. Oh, and I had roasted the chicken on top of an onion cut into rings so I chopped up a couple of those and added them to the pot. Divine. I think (hope) MFK would approve.

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