Finally, getting back to cooking! If you remember, we are covering the 15 dishes that everyone should master. So far we have covered hummus, chicken pot pie, chili, pot roast, spaghetti carbonara, carrot cake, lasagna, hollandaise sauce and beef bourguignon. We are now at N° 10: Pesto!
I come from a family where making homemade pasta is normal. Making pesto was normal as well. However, I can see how it would not occur to some families to make your own pesto. It’s just so easy to buy that little jar! But guess what? It is also just so easy to make a quick batch of pesto and it is 10 times more delicious… And it’s fun! A little elbow grease never hurt anyone. Isn’t cooking fun just altogether? I don’t like people who can’t cook. I think they’re weird. (Except my friend Jenny.) Cooking is just one of the greatest pleasures of life… According to The World According to Ellie. Don’t you agree? :-)
I plan on making a lot of pesto this summer. Why? Because yes, it’s that time of year again… The time of year that Ellie gets the bug to move to Provence. I am a California girl at heart and if I don’t get some sunshine on my shoulders soon, I am going to wilt away. My BFF, Jenny, was at my apartment the other day and she said to her daughter, “Ellie was always barefoot.” Jenny has known me since I was 16 years old and it’s true, “I am a barefoot kind of girl.” My friend Linda, unexpectedly this morning, emailed me a picture of a slide that she found in her files from when I was 16 years old. I looked at the slide and thought, “Yes, that is me. That is who I am. I need to find that girl again.”
Me at 16. Photo taken by the amazing Mikel Roberts @mikelrob.
That girl is the kind of girl who likes sunshine and a quiet life, being outside, going to farmers markets, digging in a garden, arranging flowers and cooking… Cooking for friends. Don’t get me wrong, I love Paris but it is just not who I am. I can do Paris but I would rather do Provence. So, I have spent the last week looking for a house to rent. Ideally, I would like to live in St. Tropez if all of the tourists would leave and it could be like the 1960s again. I’m pretty sure I’m fooling myself thinking that I can find a little cottage in St. Tropez for under $2 billion dollars. So, I’ve started my search in Aix-en-Provence, the Luberon Valley, Avignon, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, or L'Isle sur la Sorgue. Wherever it is the hottest year around. Let me tell you a secret, I’m really looking for an abandoned 18th-century mas (farmhouse) that is nearly free, with a pool, that I can “fix up.” I think I was seduced by the movie, A Good Year, that I watch four times over the weekend.
I remember reading in 1989 Peter Mayle’s, A Year in Provence, and being absolutely smitten. I was only 19 at the time and now I am 45 years old, so it’s obvious that I did not make these plans on a whim. It’s been my plan all along… Now I just need to implement it. I haven’t really mentioned any of this to my husband. I haven’t really mentioned to him that we are getting a new cat tomorrow either but whatever. He is on a need to know basis.
When I finally find a house to rent in Provence, you can rest assured that I will spend the summer making pesto! Then I’m going to start making every provencal dish known to mankind…tapenade, pissaladiere, Provençal stew, petit farcis, aioli, ratatouille, and tarte aux figue.
But for today, let’s start mastering pesto, shall we?
The basic ingredients to pesto are always basil, pine nuts, olive oil, Parmesan, and garlic but there are some secrets to this basic recipe…,
Secrets to a great pesto?
- Blanch your basil quickly in boiling water for 1 – 2 seconds and then quickly transfer it to cold water to seal the color.
- Use Parmigiano Reggiano and Pecorino Romano in both grated and shaved forms to give it flavor and texture.
- Use a bit of agave nectar to cut down on the garlic’s spiciness.
- The basil should be young and freshly picked… Preferably from the Ligurian hillside :-)
- Use a good mild olive oil.
- Do not toast the pine nuts.
- Only use a mortar and pesto… Don’t use the food processor, lazy.
Okay, now that we understand the tricks of the trade, let’s look at some recipes…
( not traditional pesto)
*Something you don’t know about me? I never think that something is impossible. Everything is possible. Luckily, I was raised in America where your dreams can come true… If you work hard enough. I always tell Gracie that she can do anything and be anything that she wants. The world is her oyster. I am also a big believer in visualization and manifestation. If you don’t believe me, remember that I am five years into a terminal illness that was supposed to take me three years ago. A little positive thinking goes a long way. Don’t be a victim, be a believer… in yourself. If you want something bad enough and you work hard enough, it can happen. Don’t let anyone hold you back….Not your stupid spouse, not your stupid parents, not your stupid friends, and most importantly not your stupid self. Trust yourself and remember that we only have one life… And it is short, so you might as well make the best of it. If you have any questions… I’ll be in Provence.