Thursday, July 22, 2010

reading, writing, and basil

The back-to-school supplies are out.


There's still a month of summer vacation left to enjoy but now they've thrown me into a funk so deep and depressing that I'm not sure I can get out.

That's how it was for me.

I hated school. Even ran away one day early on; out the side door, long braids flying as I raced down the sidewalk toward home, teacher and principal running after me. I don't know why. Just knew I'd rather be home.

Yet I landed in public education and spent thirty years there. The kids were so, so, so great. I can't tell you how great. I should write their stories one day.....

Like the time Chris' young, guide dog Rolly, ate an entire chicken carcass which he had, in a flash, stolen from the trash can in a Home and Family Living class. He also ate through his harness waiting for the Radio &TV Broadcasting class to start. Chris had to have another shipped overnight.

Or when Maria, a totally blind, kindergarten student suddenly had one of those "ah-hah" moments I'd been waiting for, realizing that the wooden toys we were playing with at her desk, were a set of 'playground equipment'. Her favorite thing! And so, she tried to climb onto the ten inch, toy swing.

Oh, those were such great days, but over time the system changed and I'd be lying if I denied there were too many afternoons when I wanted to again, take off running.

When summer starts, my plans are simple. Sit outside. Sip cold Pinot Grigio. Watch the basil grow.


This plan lasts until about mid-summer. By then I've watched the basil get very, very tall and begin to flower, attracting bees. It's easily a hundred degrees out so time to seek refuge indoors......time to make pesto!

Spoke likes to get theatrical, saying basil in a most authentic British voice. He'll hang out in the kitchen perfecting his intonation; "How's the bah-sil looking today, my dear?" or "How much pesto will the bah-sil make, gorgeous?" He's really good with accents. I wish you could hear him. But I eventually get back to my prep and shoo him off............Cheerio!

When it comes to making pesto I'm adamant about two things:
thoroughly washing the basil and using a mortar & pestle.

There's none of the fill-the-sink-and-swish-twice method for me. I pretty much hand clean every leaf.

I use a food processor for the first chop then transfer the leaves to a mortar & pestle and pound them to release their juice. What you lose in volume is made up for in flavor.


8 cups fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
3/4 to 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
salt & pepper
2 tablespoons Pecorino, finely grated
3 tablespoons Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
4 or 5 tablespoons olive oil

Pound the pine nuts in a mortar & pestle, leaving a few whole. Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, or by hand, chop garlic cloves until fine. Transfer to a small dish and set aside.

In the (same if used) bowl of a food processor, coarsely chop the basil leaves. Transfer by small batches to a mortar & pestle and pound them until they release their juice and the leaves are broken down. Transfer the batches to a small bowl, repeating until all of the basil is bruised.

To the bowl of basil, add the pine nuts, garlic, two pinches of salt, one grind of black pepper, the grated cheese and the olive oil. Stir to combine.

Presto, pesto!

Makes only this much.


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