Friday, October 1, 2010

Serendipity 8. Learn Pesto Production

So, this is one of those plans that went off the rails on its own trajectory, with a highly satisfactory result. Beer brewing was on the original 52 list and has been faithfully transcribed to every list update since. I've had teaching offers from three different sets of friends so it's a bit ironic that it just never seems to happen. Then last night it looked like the stars were going to align. A group of friends, many of them past and current (over-21!) students -- Dan, Derek, Drisk, Ali, Abby, Ben, Kate and Josh -- got together to start brewing a new batch and bottling one that was ready to go, and that sounded to me like a perfect rainy-evening past-time. But the full exercise was not meant to be. I am the "faculty visitor" to a first-year dorm (Ryan 2nd floor south), and we had our second meeting together last night. By the time that was done, so was much of the heavy lifting (or at least brewing and bottle washing) of the beer production. But I headed over anyway, and got to learn a thing or two about bottling, and a new skill that hadn't made my list (but probably should have) -- pesto making.

When I arrived at Dan, Derek and Ali's place the whole house smelled like a basil heaven. They had done a last harvest of basil from their community garden plot and had a giant bag of it in the middle of the living room. In case you, like me, have never made pesto from scratch before, here's the slightly simplified instructions:

1. Try to find still-green leaves to pull off the giant bag of plants sitting in the middle of your living room. When you have 3-5 cups of them, throw them in a food processor with a third of a cup of seeds (note: if you are a budget-oriented student you will be pleased to know that sunflower seeds can be substituted for pine nuts at one-tenth the cost) and three chopped cloves of garlic and "a little" olive oil. Then press the food processor button until it all looks pretty pasty.

2. Add 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and "a little more" olive oil and blend again till you can't see the Parmesan cheese.

When you are done, you will have a tasty batch of pesto that you can refrigerate or even freeze.

While Kate and Josh were teaching Drisk and me to make pesto, Derek and Abby were pulling more leaves off plants, Dan was was doing some magical steps that I didn't quite follow with his new batch of beer and then showing Kate, Ben, and Drisk how to use this cool apple peeler/corer/spiral slicer so that we could make an apple crisp as well. As you can see in one of the photos, Josh did also show Drisk and I how one home-bottles beer (with a sort of pressing device and new bottle caps) and so after whipping up a few batches of pesto, and bottling some beer, we all enjoyed a huge pan of apple crisp while listening to the rain pour outside. As you can see, we had some canine company as well, and my favorite picture of the evening is of Blue, who decided that a pile of basil would be a just-about-perfect pillow. A pretty perfect rainy Thursday night, and if anyone wants to some pasta with pesto, drop by my place and we'll have some!

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