Foodstuff: A pesto recipe for those who hate food waste
A tale of pesto and some neighborhood trash trouble
Special to The Aspen Times
When I first moved into my current home, I had been living there for approximately two hours when one of my neighbors stopped by to say hello and provide detailed instructions on where I could take my empty moving boxes, as I was not to put them in my neighborhood dumpster, under any circumstances. Not exactly the welcome wagon and homemade pie I was expecting, but, as a consummate rule follower, I was happy to oblige. I followed her instructions to the letter: whereas she had said to cross the nearest intersection and make a right, I immediately turned left before said intersection; my poor sense of direction placed me on the complete opposite side of town from where I was supposed to be, with a carload of boxes and a very long post-move to-do list. I hastily and surreptitiously threw the boxes into a construction dumpster in the blinding snow, telling no one (until this very second).
Not only do I regret being unable to follow the rules, but also, I regret to inform you that the trash troubles in my neighborhood have only gotten more dramatic over the years. The latest conflict to unfold has resulted in my bins being literally taped shut. The uncorroborated scuttlebutt on the street is that someone was contaminating the recycling, so someone else called the trash people on them, which meant our pickup cycle was skipped for a week, resulting in an entirely overwhelming amount of trash in the shed. And now, extensive door-to-door surveys are being conducted on how, when and where our recycling should be addressed.
Unable to believe that these are the items presently occupying my brain space, I am happy to tell you that I probably generate less waste than anyone else on my block, so I have very little to worry about. Being both a one-person household as well as a nutjob about throwing things away, I’m currently eating a lot of summer produce and battling a one-sided crusade (in my mind) with my homeowner’s association, which will rage until I can recycle again. Let no bin go un-taped!
Stay with me here; this all has to do with food, I promise. As much as I hate the hand-written “Closed Do Not Use” sign currently taped to our recycling bins (I’m not kidding, they are taped with a note), I hate, hate, hate food waste even more. Like, a lot more. I will push the limits of expired items in the refrigerator, reuse, repurpose and re-heat leftovers to within an inch of their lives and once refused to go to the grocery store until I forced myself to eat everything (literally everything) in my freezer. At the end of this self-imposed personal food waste challenge, all I had left was a nearly empty box of two frozen waffles, which had expired three years before. It was puzzling, as they had apparently survived a four-hour move across the state, but I ate those, too. Freezer burn: yum!
My obsession with using what I have works out, because this week, I am bringing you an easy, breezy, adaptable recipe that’s as delicious as it is useful for using up bits and bobs in your refrigerator. I have said many, many times that you can make pretty much anything into a pesto. While the traditional basil-based version that everyone knows about is a tried-and-true classic, as long as you have the basic ratios down (greens, nuts, cheese, oil, alliums), you can play around quite a bit in the kitchen. I actually refer to any riff on this recipe as “trashcan pesto” as it enables me to use up items I would normally toss, with delectable results. This classic version is from my grandmother, Toni Capasso’s, cookbook, “You Take a Little Oil and Fry Onions…” (Martel Publishing Company, 1983).
½ cup olive oil
½ cup pine nuts or walnuts*
3 cloves garlic**
1 ½ cup fresh basil leaves, tightly packed***
1 teaspoon of salt
½ cup grated Pecorino cheese****
*Pine nuts, walnuts or even sliced almonds work well here — whatever you have on hand.
**Garlic is most commonly used but try this recipe with garlic scapes sometime.
***Basil is the traditional ingredient, but I have also used spinach, arugula, and, most recently, carrot and radish tops/leaves.
****I use Parmigianino Reggiano myself.
Place all ingredients except cheese into a blender or food processor. Whirl the mixture for about 1 ½ minutes or until all the ingredients are reduced to a paste. Add the grated cheese and blend again for about 30 seconds. Serve with pasta, rice or potatoes. I also like it as a dip for crudité.
Pesto keeps well in the refrigerator in a covered container. It can also be frozen and will keep for months, retaining its color, so you can also enjoy it long after your garden greens have been covered over with snow (which always sneaks up on me this time of year). Jarred and tied with a bow, it could also make an excellent neighborhood peace offering.
Katherine Roberts is a mid-Valley based writer and marketing professional who is certain this column will mean more minutes spent on her morning dog walks as she has to explain herself to the people on her block. Alternatively, those walks may be super-short if no one is speaking to her anymore. She can be reached via her marketing and communications firm, Carington Creative, at email@example.com