Confessions of a Pesto Addict

Genovese basil--photo copyright Anne Underwood EnslowIn one heartbreaking act of finality today, I chopped down the last of my basil. It was time. The bottom leaves were turning yellow, and it was only a matter of who would claim the remaining basil first–me or the advancing chill of autumn.

But for me, the end of the basil marks more than just the steady approach of winter. It also heralds the end of freshly made pesto–an event that I regard with the panic of a depressive patient whose therapist is leaving town for vacation. Yes, I know we’re all supposed to cherish local, seasonal food. If a fruit or herb isn’t plucked fresh from a nearby farm, we’re supposed to turn up our noses and pass it by until next year. But over the summer, I think I became a pesto addict, even slathering it onto crackers for snacks. (Hint: If you’re going to eat it this way, use only a small amount of oil when you make it. You can add oil later when you mix it into your pasta.) For months, my husband and I have had pesto at least once a week on fettucine, on fish, on tomatoes. Heck, we’ve had so much, it’s almost become a basic food group.

Genovese basil--photo copyright Anne Underwood EsnlowMind you, as addictions go, it’s not a bad one. It won’t land you in jail, or even make you lose your senses, except for that brief, heady moment when you dip your spoon into the Cuisinart and take your first little bite of the latest batch. No matter how often I repeat the ritual, it still brings me intense joy. In fact, it often requires a second taste–to establish the characteristics of the new batch versus the previous one, you know. Did I add too much garlic? Better take another taste. Does the purple basil work as well in pesto the traditional Genovese basil? Maybe another little nip.

The prospect of a long winter without the spicy, rich tang of fresh pesto makes me sad. But I will just have to ease my withdrawal symptoms with the supply in the freezer–and hope that next summer’s bounty tastes all the more welcome after a lengthy absence.

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