Pesto. It’s densely flavored, intoxicatingly earthy, and extremely messy. There’s just no way around it. Whether you’re whipping up a batch or slathering it on something soft and absorbent (like a piece of Villa Bread), the chances are high that it will drip or splatter. Only if you’re wearing clothing does this become a problem. Which brings me to the perfect solution, which I can’t believe didn’t occur to me sooner: eat it naked. Why not? It’s summer, the mosquitoes aren’t bad this year and you can spread the green stuff to your heart’s content with no worries about having to burn your favorite cut-offs the next day. Because once pesto sinks into a patch of clothing fiber…it’s in. So slap a few towels down on the patio furniture and go for it.
This particular version got its name last summer after I wrote a story on edible landscaping. I broke with my longstanding tradition of planting impatiens in my balcony window boxes and instead sewed a few rows of basil, tarragon, thyme, dill, mint, sage, and oregano. One afternoon towards the end of July, Patio Pesto was born. An amalgamation of the window box contents plus the usual suspects: good olive oil (preferably Don Luigi from Teitel Brothers on Arthur Avenue www.teitelbros.com), several garlic cloves, Peccorino, and a few splashes of lemon or limejuice. It was fabulous. The note of each herb was present within. Far better than the basil pesto that I made for more than a decade.
Above are photos from my first batch of ’09. Speaking of ’09, it’s the year I decided to go cow-dairy and gluten-free. But I was having company so rather than subject them to toasted rice bread, I felt it only right to present freshly made pesto with Villa Bread, also known as the best white bread on the planet. There’s only one location that makes it: the Villa’s brick oven bakery at 44 Walnut St. in Glens Falls. And unless you live within a 10 mile-radius, you’ve gotta have a connection or get it Fed-Exed. Aside from that, any kind of artisan white bread, preferably baked at a locally owned establishment will do…even a toasted bagel makes a great foundation for a thick and glistening coat of pesto. The results for my maiden batch of '09 were sublime…and my gluten-free ‘English Muffin’ made of rice and tapioca starch was actually pretty good. The main thing is, it did its job: soaked in twice its weight in pesto.
Pesto is meant to be a free-spirited concoction. There are no rules. Make the ratios whatever you want. It should resemble a thin paste but the rest is up to you. And I almost never use nuts. Always seemed pointless since the other ingredients erase the flavor.
Patio Pesto Recipe
The ingredient list was as follows: enough basil, thyme, tarragon, and chives to fill a colander; extra virgin olive oil, Moliterno Sheep’s Milk Peccorino (acquired on my last visit to Fairway at 74th and Broadway www.fairwaymarket.com), about a tablespoon of lemon juice. Pulse it all in a food processor until smooth.
Don’t expose it to open air too long or it turns brown. It’s unsightly but still ok to eat; it’s just the oxygen at work on the leaves. And it freezes well – for up to a year. Bon Appetit!