Every year I make a big batch of pesto and freeze it. I’ve just come down from an agonizing month of final run edits for my 3rd novel, and don’t have it in me to measure ingredients. And I sure as hell won’t go the traditional way of concocting this herbaceous bliss by blending my ingredients in a mortar and pestle (hence, the name).
Labor Day weekend is allowing me time to spend a few hours putting up pesto, insuring a bad winter day will be brightened by this taste-of-summer treat. So the clock’s ticking and I’m moving fast.
A bridal bouquet of basil. Oh, the fragrance–my aromatherapy preference!
At the farmers market today, I purchased six huge bunches of fresh basil. (My tiny plot failed because of Michigan’s cold and rainy spring.) After trimming the leaves from the stems, and washing the leaves twice, I pureéd them in my processor with lots and lots of extra virgin olive oil. (All told, I used a quart of Trader Joe’s Greek Kalamata extra virgin olive oil. Of course, a good Italian or Spanish oil is fine, too.)
I’ve a mish-mash of assorted nuts, mostly pine nuts (my favorite for pestos), but I wanted to use up the stragglers. Soooo, I fattened up the pile of pine nuts with almonds and pecans and toasted the lot in a dry pan to enhance their innate nuttiness. After that, into the food processor they went. I pulsed the batch several times to ensure they were finely chopped, but not overly so.
The basil/evo purée, chopped nuts, Reggiano and sauteéd garlic–– all ready to be combined to taste!
In that same nut pan, I sautéed halved buds from two fat cloves of garlic in EVO until fragrant. Most recipes use raw garlic but, of late, I prefer removing their bite and enhancing their sweetness with a bit of heat. Process the cloves with the oil and pour into a bowl.
All that’s left is the Parmesan, and this is where I splurge. You can find loads of cello-wrapped American-made wedges of Parmesan in USA grocery stores everywhere, and they’re less than half the price of true Parmesan. But the flavor is incomparable and doesn’t hold a candle to the real stuff. It makes or breaks a pesto, at least for this girl, so it’s worth it. Two-plus pounds of stamped (that seal of authenticity) grated Parmigiano Reggiano did the job.
I also like having frozen pesto cubes to add as last-minute seasonings to winter soups and paninis.
Each ingredient has its own bowl and––not wanting one ingredient to overtake another––I mix them all to taste, adding kosher salt, at the end, to taste. Voila–I’ve twelve snack-sized baggies stuffed with pesto. Better yet, omit the disposable plastics and use Tupperware &/or ice cube trays. I also used a mini cube tray, which makes it easy to add a last minute flavor bomb to cold-weather soups, such as minestrone.
See me doing the happy dance come February, when my book is released and I can thaw a bag of summer goodness to add to a dish of pasta!
Speaking of, the cover and title of the novel will be revealed in October, and the publication date is set for February 5th. You readers will be the first to know everything, and I’ll put you at the top of the list for my advanced reader copy giveaways (beginning in October) for the book.
If you want a bona-fide recipe for pesto, click here. I wrote the recipe for the newspaper ten years ago, almost to the day. The recipe takes a deeper dive into the world of magnificent pestos!
But that was yesterday. Hopefully, a bad dream. Today, the weather is dry, the sun is shining and I await my family, excited to spend a few days with my brood. Right now I’m sitting beside my long time pal and confidant, the BIG GREEN EGG, who is looking forward to lots of action this summer.
I’d rather be looking at you (-:
This is a recipe (aka: Beer Can Chicken or Drunken Chicken) I’ve made dozens of times. It’s perfect for feeding ten or so folks (depending on the size of your birds) and leftovers make incredible chicken sandwiches. However, because of the special equipment needed (Beer Can apparatus and Smoker) I’ve never blogged about it.
Any old can filled with water works fine!
Through the years, I’ve taught, dozens–maybe even hundreds–of cooking classes to audiences. I loved it! It was great seeing the groups reaction to my methods while answering questions and then passing out samples of food.
But this time I’ll be talking to my iPhone. How lonely it will be not to see your faces. Soon enough, I’ll have to adapt to the latest technology that will enable all of your faces to be on my screen.
Apple and hickory chips for chicken.
I’m wondering if technology will ever advance to the place where I can hack off a piece of chicken and present it to you via my hard drive? I wouldn’t be surprised.
But in the meantime, I’d love to extend an invitation to you to join the Blue Sky Book Chat.
By the way, I’ve found it a waste to squander perfectly good cans of beer when smoking these birds. I’ve tried it, and to my palate, it really didn’t enhance their flavor. Between the marinade, rub and smoke there’s enough going on.
However, I love the technique of smoking the birds upright having the interior steamed by hot water in any old can. It seems to keep the birds moist. If you’d like to smoke chickens using this technique, this apparatus appears to be a good one. (The one I use is obsolete.)
Time saving trick: When hurried, I marinate birds in a bottled dressing and use a pre-made rub. Not as wonderful as homemade, but pretty dang good. That said, a rub is a wonderful vehicle for using up less-than-fresh spices!
Alison and I met in an author chat room 2 years ago.
Last week, I was hosting a discussion in a chat room—Blue Sky Book Chat––about friendships and communities formed on-line. This was in the wake of a four-day food and book mash-up in Manhattan and Brooklyn with my son, Zan, and friend, Alison Ragsdale.
I met Alison–a Scot’s lass who has written several books set in her home country–two years back in a Facebook author chat room. We both were astounded that we shared so many common interests, and our friendship blossomed on-line.
Striped Bass over Lobster at THE GRAMMERCY TAVERN.
For me–perhaps for you, as well– prior to joining Facebook in 2008, the concept of forging friendships on the internet was foreign. To be honest, even a bit creepy.
Match.com had been founded nine years prior to Facebook, so (and this is solely my experience) meeting people on-line was synonymous with hookups and dating. A wonderful source if you’re single and searching, but the internet seemed dicey for simply finding pals with common interests.
The Queen of Manhattan Indies is Strand Bookstore. Zoom into this pic to see the books banned back in the day.
Whatever your feelings (or lack of) about social media, Facebook was a game changer for me. I’ve met hundreds of people on-line, particularly on this blog, who share my interests. Manhattan and Brooklyn—with their plethora of Indie bookstores and restaurants– were the perfect playgrounds for Alison and me to meet and romp.
Renovated in 2012, even today, it retains an off-beat vibe and their tiny jewel-box rooms and included breakfasts are exceptional. I spent Halloween, 2014, there with several friends and it was such a blast, I’ll never stay anywhere else. (See this post for details on that little adventure.)
As if the West Village weren’t enough of a feast, one day we Ubered into Brooklyn. One could spend hours perusing shops in the Williamsburg area of Bedford Avenue alone. We loved Spoonbill and Sugartown Booksellers, specializing in used and rare books. We continued down and around the bend to enjoy drinks at William Vale Hotel (their view from the rooftop bar is unparalleled) and dinner at Oxomoco, where tacos are not just a taco. (see their menu).
Breakfast Option at the Marlton
Such a fabulous get-away but it was manna to return to relatively sleepy little Ann Arbor and my hubby, chirping birds the only sound to break our silence.
Want a taste of books, chatter and friendships forged on-line? Alison and I extend an invite for you to join our group in Blue Sky Book Chat. In celebration of a recent re-brand, all the authors will be giving away a ton of books and swag through June.
You don’t have to buy a plane ticket, just meet us online. Your sofa will do just fine! As always, happy to answer any questions about our trip or the chat room.
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