Kitty’s Presto Pesto Pasta

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6 POUNDS OF BASIL!!!

What on earth do we do with 6 pounds of beautiful basil?  We knew we had a great crop this year – we have been picking and enjoying fresh basil seemingly without end since July, but we were not expecting to harvest 6 pounds when frost threatened!!  Thankfully we LOVE basil and it freezes really well for the winter.

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Not only do we love to eat basil, it helps us in our battle against weeds.  Battle against weeds you ask?  YOU BET!  We sprinkle basil seeds around the bases of freshly planted tomato and pepper plants and as they grow, they create a lovely, tasty, fragrant weed barrier – bonus score!  We planted 3 varieties this year – Genovese, Sweet and Opal (purple) basil. They taste similar and I cannot honestly say I prefer one to the other.

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Even the bees love basil!!

Soooo….what to do with all of this green gold (literally – 2 ounces of fresh basil was $2.49 at the market this week….)?  My wee girl and I set to work and we spent the morning blending, pesto-ing and cooking!  The house smelled amazing and our bellies were full and happy – as is the freezer.

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We began by pulling the leaves off the stems…

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This is the square footage 6 pounds of basil covers!! But it packs down pretty tight.

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For simple freezing, we added 10 cups of leaves and 1 cup of olive oil to the blender.  I don’t have nearly enough ice cube trays, so once blender-ed to “smizereens”, we spread it over plastic plates, covered them and popped them in the freezer. Once frozen, I pull them off the plates, cut into chunks and store in freezer bags to pull out and add to sauces and salad dressings all winter.

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And of course, we made pesto!!

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Our recipe that we like to use is:

8 cloves of garlic

1 cup of pine nuts

4 cups of packed basil leaves

1 cup of olive oil

1/2 cup of grated fresh parmesan

Salt and pepper

Presto! Once blended, we freeze this as well on plastic trays – I am hesitant to jar pesto for long term storage given the risks of botulism with garlic but we do keep a few in the fridge.

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So with all the work done, my wee girl’s belly was grumbling, a perfect excuse to make fresh pasta to serve with our pesto and some tomatoes picked that morning!

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For the homemade pasta we mix 3 1/2 cups of flour with 3 fresh eggs, 1 cup of local wine and 3 cloves of pressed garlic.  Kneading the dough with an extra 1/2 – 1 cup of flour until it is no longer sticky is key – and fun for little hands!

Once the dough is set, we cut off small chunks, dust them with flour and run them through the pasta mill – first through the pasta sheet side, then through the fettucini noodle attachment. The noodles are spread on cloth until they firm up a bit – about 30 minutes. Boil in salted water for roughly 5 minutes until cooked to the right texture. Once drained, we toss them with the fresh pesto and chopped tomatoes.  My hubby the “meat-a-tarian” added some local sausage to his before we sprinkled the plates with more grated parmesan.  And of course, we always have to sip some paired wine (grape juice for Kitty…) and belt out Andrea Bocelli for full Italian effect while eating (feel free to have a listen and a sing-along with us!)

The finished product – Kitty’s Presto Pesto Pasta!  Mama Mia, delizioso!

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What do you do with your beautiful basil?

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Hehehe, this made me giggle!

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End of the month photo garden tour – September

I know we are well into October now, but I thought I would still share the end of the month pictures from the September garden before a large portion of it got harvested for storing!  Shorthly after these pictures were taken we pulled roughly 50 pounds of potatoes, 25 more pounds of tomatoes, 6 pounds of basil (more in another post on that haul!!!) and 15 pounds of beans before the frost threatened!  Most of what remains now is cold hardy and can left for a few more weeks.

My fall green plantings have sadly been ravaged by slugs and we have had to replant the winter greens, asian greens and spinach again in planters on the deck, fingers crossed we get a decent pile of greens for fall salads!

The fall radish and market turnip crop are doing very well and should be ready to pick and enjoy in the next week – it is amazing how hardy these cool season veggies can be.  With a little straw and some hoop tunnels over top as the frost sets, we should be able to pick carrots, beets, kale, chard and onions until well into December.  Bring on the cool weather, we are ready!!

Eating Local – “Roadside” Squash, Sage and Pancetta Rissoto

September raced by in a blur of back to school, back to sports and dirty harvest hands!  September is by far our favourite month in Nova Scotia; the sun shines bright and warm during the day and the welcome cool evenings allow for comfortable sleeps and a break from the humidity of the summer.  It also brings an abundance of beautiful harvest – squash, pumpkin, herbs, potatoes and of course the best pile of fresh tomatoes! Roadside farmer’s stands wait with piles of fresh treasure and little jars to drop in coins.  The simple trust placed in the “would be” consumers is such a heart warming sight – in a world where it is often scary to turn on the evening news there is a peace to be found in an afternoon drive through the country side seeking out the perfect squash, the clink of a toonie in the bottom of a jar when the prize is scored and the satisfaction of knowing it can’t get much more local than the end of the farmer’s driveway! We picked our own squash from the garden but we couldn’t help ourselves when we found the motherload of Butternut squash on a back road in Sheffield Mills last weekend – I couldn’t let it pass by and of course my tummy growled for my favourite squash recipe – Sage, Pancetta and Squash risotto. It can easily be made with bacon or without any meat at all as a vegetarian option – my “Meat-a-tarian” husband wouldn’t hear of that option! So as a final recipe in our 50% September Local Eating challenge, here is our recipe-ish…

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Our roadside bounty! $2 each and a rogue melon for $1- best price in town!

Local Ingredients

2-3 cups Butternut squash, cut into small cubes

8-10 sage leaves

3 Tbsp olive oil – From Liquid Gold!

4 cups homemade chicken stock (I had some frozen)

4 tablespoons Tatamagouche butter

1 medium onion, cut fine

8-10 sage leaves, chopped

2 1/2 cups of white wine – I used Jost Kabinett because I like a lighter taste, but a dry wine would work very well too (I would use less wine and more stock though…)

From the Store

1/4 pound pancetta, in small pieces

2 1/2 cups of Arborio Rice

1/2 freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper

How we did it…

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In a skillet, we cooked the pancetta to almost crispy. Once cooked I drained it (leaving a few drippings in the pan) and set it aside.  To the skillet I added 1 tbsp of olive oil and the squash over medium high heat until almost soft.  The sage, salt and pepper were added for about 1 minute at the end. The smell is amazing!

In the meantime…

In a large pot, we melted 3 tbsps of butter with 2 tbsps of olive oil and sauteed the onion until clear over medium heat. Then we added the rice and stirred constantly for 2 minutes.  (My minions helped, this is key to multi-task recipes!)

To the rice we added the wine, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each addition was absorbed.  Then we added the hot stock 1/2 cup at a time (while I sipped a glass of wine of course) until it was all absorbed – roughly 25 minutes.

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Once the risotto was soft and oh-so-creamy, we added the last tbsp of butter, the squash, sage and the pancetta to the pot with most of the parmesan, gently folding it all together.

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Obviously, it was served with the matching wine and sprinkled with the parmesan cheese on top.

Who knew bargain roadside produce could be so rich?!

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