Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Birds fly south, squirrels bury nuts, I make pesto. Each October, as winter creeps closer, my natural instinct to preserve what’s left in my garden takes over.

With the threat of frost in the forecast, in between organizing Romantic Cottages, interviewing a homeowner for a story for Log Home Design magazine and working on The Mystery Project, I whipped up batch after batch of pesto. By the end of the day, my freezer was well stocked with tiny tubs of the delectable green sauce.

While magazine and newspaper articles print endless variations on pesto, I like to keep it simple: basil, olive oil, Parmesan cheese, and pine nuts.

Barbara’s Basic Pesto
1 cup of fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon pine nuts
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt

Add everything to a food processor or blender and run the machine until pesto is the consistency you like. You can make it roughly chopped or very smooth. If your machine won’t blend the mixture properly or if the finished results are too dry or lumpy, add a bit more oil.

This year, I had a bumper crop of both Italian Sweet Basil and Thai Basil. The Thai variety has a slightly mintier taste and is adds an authentic Asian taste to stir fried veggies or rice noodles. Its purple flower spikes make a great addition to late summer and fall bouquets.

Last Fall, on the same day that the female flicker flew onto my screened in porch on her way south, I tried a recipe from the NY Times for a Vietnamese sauce that called for and Thai Basil and Cilantro. My guests thought it was terrific on steak, so a week or so later I tried it on fish (excellent), then shrimp (another success)! I changed the recipe slightly, to make it a little more moist. Here’s my version.

Vietnamese Basil Sauce
(From the NY Times)

For Sauce:
1/2 cup each Thai basil leaves and cilantro leaves
2 Tablespoons nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1 small Thai chile, stemmed and seeded or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons chopped garlic or a dash of garlic oil
1 shallots, chopped

1 1/2 lbs skirt steak or fish (cod, Chilean sea bass or swordfish)

Hero rolls or Boston lettuce leaves

Start a charcoal or wood fire, or heat a gas grill. Fire should be moderately hot. Grill rack should be no more than 4 inches from heat source. Combine sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse to chop finely, but not quite purée. Sprinkle steak or fish with salt and pepper and gril. Steak or fish can be topped with a bit of sauce and served on a hero roll or wrapped in a lettuce leaf, and rolled up Vietnamese style.

*** BLOG DU JOUR ***

As food blogs go, you can’t beat Ivonne’s Cream Puffs In Venice. The text is delightful and the photos ( example on right) are as scrumptious as the recipes.

For a calorie-free tour of Italian cookery click on her photo link!


FrenchGardenHouse said...

Barbara, thanks so much for the pesto sauce recipe, this looks so good and there is so much basil in my garden (if it didn't get killed by the winds and smoke!) so this weekend I will have to try making this.

Present Past Collection said...

I love reading Cream Puffs in Venice. She makes me feel like I might actually be able to make some of her delectable treats!
Looking forward to the Top Secret Project!

KJ said...

Now this really resonates with me since I just finished eating a pasta dish made with Laura's Loaves & Goodies Homemade Pesto Sauce. She makes it fresh every day. I added some chives and rosemary from my potted herb garden.

However, it might just be time for me to start making this myself. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

Best Blessings, KJ

P.S. So glad to see that your book is flowing nicely!

PAT said...

Thanks so much for the recipes, Barbara!

I have had good luck with basil in the past. Perhaps I'll grow some, next summer.


The Old Painted Cottage said...


This looks pesto-licious! Thank you so much for sharing..now I'm hungry! mmm...


Penny @ Lavender Hill Studio said...

Well, now I am really hungry! The recipes sound wonderful. And the blog sounds yummy! I am going there now!

Catherine said...

Beautiful shot of the Flicker! And your pesto recipe sounds delicious!! I love visiting Cream Puffs in Venice..~Great blog!

Can't wait to find out more about your mystery project..:)