I’ve been trying to post recipes most weekends, but have been derailed lately. The weekend before hurricane Irene I was down on the Jersey shore with extended family. We had a blast smoking whole fish–even using pine branches from the yard–and I was eager to write up the recipe. Instead I evacuated the barrier island we were on, leaving the smoker behind.
This week’s recipe was almost derailed by Irene, too. My mother’s birthday falls every year on/around Labor Day weekend and we tend to spend it happily laboring over sauces that will sustain us through the winter–batches of pesto and jars of several types of tomato sauce. It’s a good (tipsy) time in her kitchen. The process helps ease the pain of summer ending, and I think of the silliness all fall/winter/spring long when we defrost the glass jars of sauce for meals.
But this year it was really hard to find a box of plum tomatoes; curiously the farm stands we normally rely on didn’t have any. The day before we wanted to make sauce I started to hear stories–mainly from my CSA farmer–that the FDA was saying no produce that had been under floodwaters was allowed to be sold. Irene hit the farmland in and around the Hudson Valley–where my mom has a house–hard. My CSA farmer had planned to harvest what she still could once the waters receded. But now that was no longer possible.
Knowing that Irene had ended the season for my CSA farmer of 11 years, I headed to the Saturday farmers’ market anxious–who would I see? Who would I not see? Would people be in similarly dire straights or did some survive intact? I was greeted with a better than anticipated market full of produce and farmers. I heard many stories, some of them devastating. And I loaded up on gorgeous produce, including a box of tomatoes.
Before lunch today we did the pesto process. Before dinner we did the two tomato sauces (one was carrot/onion/lovage, the other was basil/garlic). As I type, the freezer is full as can be. And so am I. It was a bittersweet moment in the kitchen–slightly less joyous than it normally is considering. But we were all glad to have it.
MY MOM’S PERFECT* PESTO (*UNBIASED! THIS IS A FACT!)
2 stuffed cups of washed basil leaves (preferably organic/local, don’t bother drying them)
3 heaping tablespoons pine nuts
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt (depending on how salty you like it)
1 small garlic clove (go big if you like garlic)
1/3 cup olive oil (preferably organic/local though there is no local Hudson Valley olive oil)
Blend all of the above in a food processor. If not using right away, freeze as is. Defrost when ready to use.
Serve with 1 pound of pasta and tons of parmesan cheese. Tip: reserve some pasta cooking water to use as needed when mixing the pesto with the pasta.