Pesto in January

Last weekend I sat on the living room floor with piles of fresh basil in front of me, pinching leaves off of bright green stems in the warm afternoon light and listening to Jimmy Buffet sing about white sand and piña coladas. Lost in the smell of summer and images of the Caribbean, I felt very far from January. A brief but delicious escape from winter.

I’ve never made pesto in January, obviously. Usually, by this time of year, I’m digging in the far corners of my freezer looking for any remnants of the pesto I made and froze in the summer. I mostly come out of the icy depths cold and disappointed. I love pesto; it never lasts as long as I want it to, no matter how much I freeze.

But this past weekend, Josh stumbled upon a super sale at the grocery store where they were selling huge boxes of fresh organic basil for under two dollars. (Two dollars!) We couldn’t resist. We bought three boxes.

And so, for the first time ever, I made pesto in January.

Pesto, slightly adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook (the original edition)

This recipe reminds me of my mom in summer, of sitting at the kitchen table with mountains of freshly-picked basil from the garden, and of spending hours making bright green pesto. I remember watching my fingers slowly turn black as we pinched the leaves off, talking the afternoon away. Sitting there, I couldn't help but imagine the generations of women before us that spent their days working together in the kitchen, sharing stories and laughing as they prepared food that would serve them for the year to come. I remember feeling all warm and tingly inside at the thought of being connected to such generations past, like I was sharing a special timeless secret.

3 cups packed fresh basil (mine were packed and overflowing)
1 cup lightly packed parsley
3 large cloves garlic (I like my pesto garlicky; you may want to start with two cloves and then taste)
1/2 cup pine nuts and walnuts mixed
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tbsp melted butter
salt to taste

Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. I love this recipe because it tastes so fresh, like a burst of herbs on your tongue. If you would like your recipe to taste a little less herby, just add more olive oil/parmesan/butter. There's no right way to do this, so have fun and experiment!

This makes a lot of pesto. The best way to store it is to fill empty ice cube trays with it as soon as it's ready and put it in the freezer before it oxidizes. Once the cubes are frozen, pop them out of the trays and store them in zip lock bags in the freezer. Now you have ready-made individual servings whenever you want!

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