The first days of summer are marked by that familiar smell of a sun-baked earth. The smell usually rises into the air around the dusk of a fully stretched out day, almost sweet, and where I grew up, with a touch of pine tree. The earth is fully alive and awake, plants are heavy with fruit, gardens are leafed over in green, and flora and fauna alike are over flowing with energy. Around this time of year we strive to preserve this internal sense of energy and freedom that summer fosters. We roast and can tomatoes, we pickle cucumbers and zucchini, freeze our corn, and make granitas out of watermelon. All in the hopes of preserving the smells and tastes of that summer heat, so that we can reminisce on winter nights about our barefoot escapades…when we were allowed to be heathens.
I love preserving the heat-treated herbs of summer in an earthy pesto. I actually freeze it in a covered ice cube tray so that I can savor the pesto all winter long. I will confess however, I do not really use, nor do I really have a recipe to follow, but I can offer these vague guidelines:
Opal basil and oven roasted tomato pesto…
- Summer herbs (basil, parsley, cilantro)
- Toasted nuts (walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, almonds)
- A salty, hard cheese, grated (Asiago, Parmesan)
- Roasted garlic
- Olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Cracked pepper
- Oven roasted tomatoes
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cover your cherry tomatoes in olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and allow to roast until dried. At the same time cut a bulb of garlic in half, cover in olive oil, wrap in foil, and place in oven until each clove is just about spreadable.
In a medium pan, toast nuts, whichever variety you have on hand. For this pesto I used pecans, which gave it a hint of sweetness.
In a small food processor, add equal parts cheese and nuts, and then pack in as many herbs as you can. For this pesto I used what came in our farm box, opal basil and parsley. Pulse in the processor while adding olive oil little by little. Once the mixture moves freely you can continue to add olive oil in a stream until it forms a thick paste.
Add oven roasted tomatoes, about a handful or so, and process. Serve the rest on top of a pasta, or on their own. They are the little red jewels of summer. Then salt and pepper to taste.
We first used this pesto over pasta. We also used it on the sandwiches we made for our daughter’s first birthday party. We made the organic wheat bread, and filled the sandwiches with pesto, heirloom tomatoes, feta, and cucumbers.
Eat together toast to each other, and share!