The bounty of harvest season allows, for those of us who like to play in the kitchen, or those who want to learn the skills of cooking, to become mad food scientists! Eating fresh garden vegetables are about the nutrition they provide, the flavors we can ignite within them, while preparation allows for us to cook vegetables in ways that are magically wonderful. Like any other science experiment, creating new flavors involves trial and error. Requirements? Come to the kitchen with a few basic skills, a willing to learn, and not be afraid!
'Farm to table' is the new buzz phrase in meal preparation but it does involve intermediate steps, otherwise your plate may have a pile of dirt covered vegetables and a live chicken, head and feathers still attached, pecking at those veggies. Fine, if you are a fox, coyote or another omnivorous creature. But for humans, that picture? Not so appetizing! (Omnivorous = big word of this blog - eating both plants and meat).
Let's add the intermediate steps for 'farm to table' and walk through these steps that I will call - Farm to Bag to Sink to Cutting Board to Sauté Pan/Oven/Blender or perhaps all three, and THEN, to table! Today's plan for the plate is what I call Presto Pesto with a combination of veggies and herbs from the Boyd Community Garden, the Alamosa Saturday morning Farmer's Market, piñon nuts from New Mexico and California Olive oil and Parmesan cheese from the local Food Co-op.
Farm to bag - At the Boyd Community Garden I was able to gather fresh basil, which is quite the prolific, aromatic, classic Italian herb and continues to bush out nicely as it is cut back. To add to my pesto, I also harvested arugula - a healthy peppery green. To add to the 'bag,' I went to the Alamosa Farmer's Market and I purchased garlic that came from the local Rio Grande park garden as well as roasted green chile. I had recently been in New Mexico where I purchased local pine nuts. On hand in my kitchen I had olive oil and shredded cheese. (Plus salt).
To Sink to Cutting Board - I rinsed the basil and arugula, took the skin off the garlic and cut the cloves into small chunks. I placed the basil and arugula in a colander and shook to remove the rinse water and then patted them dry in paper towels. Easy!
To Sauté Pan and Blender - I dry toast my pine nuts in a pan on medium heat which enhances their flavor. I watch them closely and continue to shake them around the pan so they flip and turn a light golden brown. The next step is adding olive oil in your blender, drop in your garlic chunks, add the basil and arugula, pushing the green leaves down into the oil, add the pine nuts and the shredded Parmesan cheese. Hit blend and watch the ingredients whirl into a beautiful green slime! It may require stopping the blender several times while using a big spoon to push the top ingredients down into the mix at the bottom to get them all blended properly. Last step is to taste. The pesto will most likely require a bit of salt beyond what the salt in the cheese will provide. Add small amounts of a high quality salt, blend and taste, repeat if necessary until your taste buds shout - Presto! Pesto! (For a southwestern twist - I added roasted green chile to my pesto - adds subtle chile flavor and a bit of spicy heat.)
To Table - Pesto is a versatile, healthy and flavorful food - Use as a vegetable dip, as a sauce for your homemade pizza, a sandwich spread, mix into your favorite pasta dish, or place a small amount in a bowl, add lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and a little water, and have a pesto salad dressing to put over your fresh garden greens salad. Pesto also enhances meats, especially chicken for an entree. NOTE - if finger dipping into your pesto mix to taste, be careful not to chew your fingers off! It is that good. As Julia Child would say, "Bon Appetite!"
This recipe is brought to you by the San Luis Valley Food Coalition (slvlocalfoods.org) and Dave's Kitchen