Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I made basil, oregano, thyme, tarragon, sage pesto

Never Done: I made basil, oregano, thyme, tarragon, sage pesto

Right before the hurricane, my co-worker came to an early morning staff meeting and announced she had a present for everyone. She had picked all the herbs from her garden, wrapped them in wet paper towel, put them in plastic bags, and brought them for us. She was afraid her garden would wash out in the storm -- and she decided to share her bounty.

I loved that she did this. I felt that in making these little herby goodie bags, she really showed herself to us in a way that I am not yet showing myself at work. I'm starting to -- I've now told a couple people about my Never Done year, and someone suggested that I teach a Never Done workshop, which is a great idea. I show myself when I make programming suggestions, or join some co-workers at a lunchtime spin class. But I don't think people really have a sense yet of my brand of rural secular cultural yiddishkayt and Judaism. It'll be good for me to show it, in good time.

But this was my coworker sharing herbs from her garden. I took them home and thought I'd make something with them right away, but right away was some anesthesia, and then a hunkering down hurricane day, and then back to work -- and I just don't cook as much as I used to now that I am a commuter. But I felt determined to do something lovely with her lovely gift, so when I got home from work, I took out the herbs, stripped them off their stems, washed them, and let them sit to dry while I contemplated what I could do with them. They would have been perfect in my mom's roasted tomato sauce, but I didn't have tomatoes. I thought about making a pasta salad and tossing them, fresh, with olive oil and garlic. But I wouldn't have been able to eat it fresh, and that seemed like a waste. But it gave rise to another idea -- something I'd never tried before -- to make pesto with a mixture of herbs. Not just basil pesto with a pinch of something else, but truly a pesto of mixed herbs.

And so I practiced Decisiveness: Once you make a decision, act without hesitation, and I tossed the herbs in the Cuisinart along with some pine nuts, garlic, parmesan, olive oil, and salt -- and went to town. The result was a lovely, tangy, almost lemony pesto -- one that I have the feeling will ripen with age. It made three jars, and I put one in my bag to bring in to my coworker. Just a little gift to show myself a little bit.


  1. Please elaborate on your mom's roasted tomato sauce (and also the right-side-up cherry cake from earlier this month)!

  2. Roasted tomato sauce -- makes about 10 cups

    15 cloves of garlic
    8 pounds ripe tomatoes, cored and quartered
    10 medium onions, skins removed and quartered
    1 cup chopped, fresh herbs (a mixture of rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, parsley and/or chives)
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    Fresh ground pepper, to taste
    3-4 tablespoons sugar (optional)

    Preheat oven to 450°F. Peel and chop 5 of the garlic cloves. Leave the remaining 10 cloves whole. In a large roasting pan, gently toss together garlic, tomatoes, onions, herbs, oil, salt and pepper.

    Roast for 25 minutes. Gently stir the vegetables. Roast for another 45 minutes, or until the tomatoes are soft and broken down and there is a golden crust on top of the mixture.

    Remove from the oven and taste for seasoning. Add a few tablespoons of sugar if you choose. (I prefer without.)