I use to have pipe dreams of growing a big garden every year.
In this pipe dream I’d plant tomatoes and cucumbers and onions and carrots. I’d wear a cute little sundress and coordinating hat as I toiled in the soil.
I’d write books like, The Thoughtful Gardener or You say tomato, I say how many would you like?
Suffice it to say reality and the pipe dream existed on opposite ends of the spectrum. The tomatoes got bottom rot, the only carrot I harvested was smaller than a nickel, and the cucumbers withered on the vine, As did my pipe dream. Which is why I frequent farmer’s markets.
I do grow my own herbs though. This has been an especially good year for them, prompting yours truly make a batch of pesto with all that fresh basil.
I know what you must be thinking: first a three-layer cake, now pesto. Who does she think she is? Betty Crocker? Not at all. It’s just that sometimes I need a little diversion—a quick win—to carry me through other long-term projects. Like finishing the latest manuscript, for example.
Since a standard pesto recipe can be whipped up with a handful of ingredients, I figured pesto had all the makings of a perfect diversion.
The basic pesto trinity—greens, nuts, and cheese—can include just about anything you have on hand. It’s so malleable that could probably be made out of those pesky dandelions in the front yard. But why push our luck.
The only rule I have, no thanks to an unfortunate run-in with pine mouth, is to always replace pine nuts with another nut. Any other nut. As long as it’s not a pine nut. Because I never want pine mouth again. That said, be your own person and do what you want.
If you’ve never tried to make pesto, rest assured it’s very forgiving—which is handy to know when things don’t go exactly as planned. And let’s be honest. When do things ever go as planned?
I started the recipe as usual, tossing a few cloves of garlic into the food processor. With nuts, cheese and olive oil on standby, I turned my attention to the basil and strayed from protocol—I recently read that blanching the basil will keep the pesto from turning brown. That may be true. It’s also the quickest way to shrink several heaping cups of leafy green basil into a pile of wilted nothingness.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you the proverbial wheels of the bus were starting to wobble.
Whether it was the blanching or the basil itself, the end product was bitter.
Once again, I consulted the kitchen experts of the world wide web, apparently having learned nothing from the blanching fiasco. The fix? More cheese. At least it made more sense than the blanching theory—and we all know there’s no such thing as too much cheese.
Luckily the fix worked and I was able to fill three snack-size ziplocks with homemade pesto. Not bad for a three-minute-turned-into-30-minute project.
But that wasn’t the point. Sometimes I just need a little diversion—especially when it reminds me I make a better writer than culinary queen.