Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cozy, Comfy Pesto - A Kitchen Maturing

There is no picture of the pesto penne dinner tonight because it was that good. Gone before the idea of a camera entered our heads.

I am at stage in my life where I want less, not more. Less clutter, less issues, less to-do's, less noise, less stuff. I have a few boxes of keepsakes and trinkets from my past down in the basement. The volume is not embarrassing. I have boxes of half started projects, put on hold for more important uses of my time. Again, the volume is not embarrassing. I have a box of clippings of recipes and food stories that someday I might try. Still, the volume is not embarrassing. And tucked in that box of recipe clippings is part of my historical collection of recipes actually written out on 4" x 6" recipe cards.

Some 15+ years ago I decided to launch into the digital age and I keyed most of the favourite recipes collected to-date into a product called Foodware, a software product by Telemedia Publishing of Toronto's Canadian Living magazine. It soon saw obsolescence and when MasterCook became a more compelling recipe management tool, I switched. It involved a data conversion of about 100 recipes which I knitted my way through thanks to an IT bent from my university and work days.

I am now at a point that the 409 recipes I do have in MasterCook are the keepers. Every once in a while I cull the database. I realize a potentially loved recipe just isn't holding it's own compared to newer ones that have captured my palate. I also now know that I won't keep a recipe just because I tried it. A habit from the past. It really does need to be one that I can say I want to make again.

That lingering box of magazine clippings and recipe cards were ones I had never keyed in. Just not the top priority favourites I guess. Now the time has come where I need to ask myself, will I ever try this recipe any time over this second half of my life. And if it is one I have made, will I ever make it again. Really, will I? If it is a vague answer, out it goes. I want less clutter more than I want to risk losing the recipe that got away.

I am sure you are wondering, what does any of this have to do with cozy, comfy pesto. You might have an inkling as to 'a kitchen maturing', but the pesto? Hang in there, it is coming.

In the stash of recipes cards is a collection that potentially represents the greatest of pesto recipes. I am sure I never made a one of them but they are all written out so neatly. And probably because I never made a one of them, they were never keyed into Foodware, let alone MasterCook.

There were seven pesto recipes. Seven! Now that is getting a little possessive about wanting perfection.
  • Summer Pesto - Canadian Living August 1993 (pg 13 no less - was that important?)
  • Pesto - Select Homes & Food March 1990 (pg 51 - still not important)
  • Basil Pesto - Select Homes & Food May/June 1991 (pg 50 - psychologists unite)
  • Pesto (Basil Sauce) - Canadian Living Cookbook (page 148)
  • Pesto dressing - Canadian Living Magazine 1984 (CL8-845)
  • Pesto Sauce - The Harrowsmith Pasta Cookbook (page 97)
  • Basil Parsley Pesto - Canadian Living Magazine 1985 (CLS -855)
I am not really sure why we never made pesto ourselves over the years. I guess it just seemed to be a treat we had always left for eating out. With my Roots and Shoots Farm CSA food, I have had a good size bunch of basil twice now. And for whatever reason I decided pesto would be the best choice for using it up. So although the anthropological dig has recently uncovered these well archived and cataloged recipes, I just couldn't be bothered with them.

Everybody knows, don't they, that basil pesto consists of basil, toasted pine nuts, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. So out came the food processor and in went the ingredients, and by instinct, I knew just how much of each. An instinct that comes with a maturity in the kitchen, a cozy relationship with food and it's science. A sense of what order to put things together and then how to tinker. Checking for taste and texture and looks and viscosity. It isn't something that has been memorized. It is about being one with the food. Definitely an 'ah ha' moment.

Our pesto met with the penne and dinner arrived. Filling the hunger and giving the satisfaction that only comes from homemade.

For those of you wanting more than just hand waving about how to make basil pesto, I think it went something like this:


2 cups fresh basil, packed
4 cloves garlic minced (start with 2 and then taste and add a bit at a time - size matters!)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (you may add more once you see the consistency)
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt (again your preference if you want to add more)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pulse gently in food processor. I prefer it to not be too liquid smooth. I like it with a bit of texture.

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