Earlier this fall, I made a major mistake in the garden, a rookie mistake, really. I missed the first frost, in mid september, and all of our basil that we had been growing for pesto was blackened. Charcoal leaves, charcoal plants. It was sad and I mourned the loss while feeling a little embarassed. I probably wouldn’t have had enough sheets to cover all the plants anyway, but it didn’t have to happen. I realized, though, that we
still had pesto in the freezer from 2013 that we hadn’t even used. Sure, it probably wasn’t the freshest, but we don’t typically follow any rules for time spent in the freezer. If it looks ok, let’s do it. I’m actually really looking forward to eating our wedding cake this January for our one year anniversary. So, it’s not like we were to be without pesto. And in my mourning, I was drawn to google and typed in “non-basil pesto”. It was then that I found this nice assortment of “4 Ways to Make Pesto without Basil” and came to realize how my irresponsibility with the basil was actually an opportunity for me to keep the rest of our garden goodies under control.
I was inspired by the glimmering photos on the website to make parsley pesto, cilantro pesto and “sundried” tomato pesto. I didn’t follow any recipe, gently stuffing some of the parsley or cilantro into our small food processor, drizzling with olive oil, grating in some romano or parmasean, garlic cloves, and topping with almonds and a little salt. I added lemon juice to the cilantro combination.
We had so many tomatoes that we were drying them. Our food dehydrator was amazingly fast compared to the oven, though it can be done in the oven with plenty of patience. I took the tomatoes and mixed them in the same manner as the green stuff. Being dried, the flavor was intense.
Two days ago, I decided it was time to use up some of the carnival squash that we had left from the garden. They were tough to cut and seemed a bit dry, their yellow flesh sort of hinted that maybe it should be more orange, looking a little like one of those sunwashed t-shirts or chino shorts. I wondered how the squash would be, even for soup, but loaded some cubes, quarters, and funky shapes into a big pot, filled with some water and put on the stove to boil and steam. I thought good thoughts and headed out to help move some wood boards under the protection of the bay beside our sugarhouse.
Upon returning, the house was significantly warmer, it almost smelled like cinnamon, and the squash was cooked through, taking on a smooth texture with a deeper orange color resulting. Later, I peeled the squash and we made a soup, adding in some of the cilantro pesto that I had made and stored in the freezer. The soup, which we are still enjoying tonight with venison, was amazing. Some half and half, leftover from a potato dish made for a potluck last week, chicken broth, and the squash combined perfectly. Salt and pepper to taste. While it brought back memories of my disappointing basil crop, I appreciated my new pesto experimentation. So easy!