Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Junk Drawer

I've been semi-wracking my brain today, trying to think of a subject that's gotten me to thinking, but nothing has surfaced. Such pressure; I can't possibly let that silly sing-song poem sit at the top of the page! So I'm just gonna jot down a few unrelated ponderings, à la Andy Rooney. "Didja ever notice...?" My sympathies to those too young to know him.

We had somewhat frighteningly gusty winds all night last night and through the day today. It added some interest to what's been a dreary post-holiday season. I rushed home from work to see how far our garbage can had migrated. When I left this morning, it was flat on its back about 5 feet back from where it started, and the recycling bin was joining it. It was raining too hard for me to deal with it in my work clothes, so I left it. No major damage; the recycling bin won the race, but neither container made it out of the yard.

I was overjoyed, after changing quickly and snapping the leash on the dog, to realize that it was still light outside! Finally, the dark evening walks are over--more or less. If it's overcast it will still be too dark to go into the park, but even a little remaining sunlight makes a big difference. It changes the entire feel of the neighborhood, for you can see past the house fronts, and colors come back to life. Plus--joy, rapture--I no longer need my mini light to clean up after the dog.

It's the small things...

There is one remaining deflated Christmas decoration in a front yard. We've walked by it for several weeks now, but today Rosie decided it was suddenly interesting again. She was far more alert than usual, as the wind created so much movement, her head continually swiveled, and her ears were on full perk. She's so darn cute, I even had the patience to take her into the middle of the street to investigate a leaf that she had started to obsess about. She didn't even thank me for going out of my way. Hmph.

Tonight I was trying to think of a good side to go with the ham that Miss Chef cooked yesterday. I have to say, I recommend everyone keep some pesto on hand. Ten minutes of boiling pasta, while thawing some broccoli in the microwave and grating some parmesan, and voilà! Broccoli pesto pasta! (I would have put grape tomatoes in if we'd had any.)

Here's what you need to do (uh-oh, I feel like Oprah): in the spring, go out and buy two or three basil plants--or more, I think we had 5 or 6 this year--and plant them in the ground, in full sun. Keep enough of an eye on them to pinch back the flower stalks as they develop, to encourage bushier growth. By mid- to late summer, you should be able to harvest an enormous amount, just by cutting the plants back quite severely. We got two giant harvests last summer, not counting the day-to-day use we got out of them. We ended up with probably close to 2 quarts of pesto from that. We froze it in 1-cup containers, though now I'm wishing we'd made some pesto cubes.

How to make pesto? Well, Miss Chef never gives me measurements, so the best I can tell you is: in a blender, blend together a small handful of pine nuts with 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, plus salt to taste. Then fill the rest of the blender with lightly-packed basil leaves. (Picking and rinsing the basil is a chore best done in front of the tv or over wine with a friend.) Start the blender, and slowly add olive oil until the blades start to "catch" on the basil. I had to stop the blender a few times to push the basil down.

Yes, this is a very imprecise recipe, here's a more detailed one from

Once you've got it down, pesto is so darn handy: Miss Chef incorporated it into stuffed shells, I mixed it with some leftover ricotta and goat's milk cheeses to make ravioli, I brought a cold pesto pasta salad for an office potluck, and when my mother needed to bring sides to three different parties within a couple of weeks, I gave her her own cup of pesto. I think she got 5 uses out of it. I haven't even gotten around to stuffing it under the skin of a roasted chicken. Mmmmmm.....basil garlic crostini...drool...

Of course, if you don't like basil, or olive oil, or are allergic to pine nuts....well, never mind, then. But for the rest of us, letting some basil grow for a few months, and then spending half an hour with a blender, is a wonderful, easy way to add more flavor to your kitchen. Plus, you know what's in it!

Oh yeah, one other thing: not only do basil and tomatoes taste wonderful together, but they also grow very well together. I think they chase away each others' pests or something. I doubt it works on rabbits, though.

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