Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bushes of Basil

Basil. It is a lovely word. It has a lovely smell. I even like it as a name, and I have a particular aversion to naming children after food or drink. At the 29 South garden we will harvest all of our basil in the next two weeks. Today I cut off three branches, two for myself and one for Gan Gan as a thank you for being so good to Lil' Bit.

When you walk past this bed in the garden the fresh scent of this delectable plant cuts through even the most humid air. It just hangs there in the thick the insufferable stagnant air a whiff of vigor.
Today I spent an hour pulling buckwheat and grass out of one bed in the garden. It is the end of September and 90+ degrees in Florida. Hell, I tell you. In the garden right now there are few edibles...the basil, some scraggly eggplant, and a few tomato plants on their last leg.

We are spending the next week cleaning it all out and preparing for our fall planting.
We...being myself and Jeannemarie...the newest edition to the 29 South team. She is our new gardener, and has impeccable timing. I have been stressed out about how the garden will be maintained alongside the impending birth of a new babe. Jeannemarie appeared at our door seemingly out of thin air, with an appreciation for organic food which is rare in this neck of the woods. To say I am glad she is here is an understatement.

While she yanks the rest of the plants out of the garden, our Chef Mike and his kitchen team will harvest all the basil for pesto. Pesto freezes amazingly well, and I am curious to see how many pounds of it he will get from our bushes. I am going to whip up a batch myself this weekend. It is so easy to make...and a little goes a long way.

We are off to the land of milk, honey, and fine wine next week...Napa Valley and my favorite city in the US...San Francisco! We will be eating our way through...stay tuned!

Good Life Recipe #12 / Pesto/Alice Waters/The Art of Simple Food
*This recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups of pesto. I like to make a lot of pesto at once, add a little lemon juice to keep it from browning, and freeze it in ice cube trays for later use. It freezes perfectly, and it is a sauce you can use on almost anything! Alice Waters uses a mortar and pestle in this recipe, but tossing all of the ingredients in a new fangled food processor has the same effect. If you go that route, add all of the ingredients but the olive oil and give it a few pulses, then add olive oil slowly at the end while the processor is running.

  • 1 Bunch of basil, to yield about 1 lightly packed cup
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts, lightly roasted
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin-olive oil
  • In a mortar and pestle pound 1 garlic clove and a pinch of salt into a paste.
  • Add and continue to pound 1/4 cup of pine nuts, lightly toasted (toast briefly in a pan over medium heat)
  • Add 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Transfer this mixture into a bowl. Coarsely chop basil and put in the mortar.
  • Pound the leaves into a paste.
  • Return the pounded pine nut mixture into the mortar and pound with leaves.
  • Continue pounding as you gradually pour in 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
*You can use walnuts instead of pine nuts.

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