Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Fall Pantry

I love the end of August and September, shorter days, crisp cool mornings and evenings, the changing color of the leaves. But most of all I love the activities of setting up my fall pantry. The harvest season. I must have been a pioneer or a farmer in my previous life, working the land to make my home and feed my family.

I am wired to wake up at the crack of dawn, even before then on most days. Heading out in the dark early morning to the farmers market to gather my tomatoes, green beans, corn, and basil

I have a fall routine, a ritual if you will of getting our pantry ready for the fall so that all it takes is cracking open a can of roasted tomatoes, opening a bag of fresh corn off the cob, slathering in the pesto, tossing in a can of my own garbanzo, black or pinto beans, adding some roasted red pepper, a dollop of homemade apple sauce, rubbing a roast in my own spice blend. I can, I roast, I toast, and I freeze. I love it

If you were to visit in the cold dark months of December or January you would have a sensory experience and a meal you would never forget. I am likely to make authentic Hungarian Guly├ís with my canned fire roasted red peppers, shrimp tossed with pesto, smoked pork butt rubbed with my own Latin spice rub with real black beans and caramelized onions, roasted tomato soup or a cheddar corn chowder, a sandwich on sourdough with homemade pesto, homemade mayo layered with roasted chicken and gouda. And if you liked Indian food you would experience the aroma of complex toasted spice blends that are made in small batches just so they stay fresh. You probably wouldn’t even notice that you were eating gluten-free

It is a major undertaking and consumes my every waking moment for nearly 6 weeks and I have not even mentioned the honey harvest that we hope for every year. It is the only time of year you are likely to find me awake past 10. I occasionally have a gluten-free pizza delivered if the canner is running late into the evening. I pop over to the Minnesota State Fair for safely fried French fries in between canning runs. There is plenty of coffee, fresh squeezed lemonade and tonic water to carry me through the days.

Thabo Lama would have loved these days, so much to do in the kitchen, so much to smell and test. I think he would have been particularly partial to husking 100 ears of corn and removing the kernels from the cob. I miss him dearly but it seems he rubbed off on Ziva Jane. We are only into day two but so far she seems to be keeping her ear to the rattle of the pressure canner and checking it all out. She is easily distracted however and likes to screw up my small kitchen T.V., pressing buttons in such a manner that getting the signal and CNN back is a frustrating undertaking. I am grateful for her company even if she is a little trouble.

My go-to pesto recipe is easy and freezes well. I tried many variations and suggest you do to. Personally I like toasted pine nut but you can use any kind of nut. Regardless of what you choose, toasting is worth the effort. You can back off on the garlic or hold back on the pepper. I freeze small portions in various sized airtight containers and even use ice cube trays for really small portions. I do cover the top with a thin film of olive oil and plastic wrap

4 cups fresh basil, tightly packed

½ cup toasted pine nuts, cooled completely

5 cloves of garlic, minced

2/3 cup freshly grated parm

1-teaspoon salt

1-teaspoon pepper

1/3-cup good olive oil

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade puree the toasted nuts and garlic. Add the basil, salt and pepper and puree for about 30 seconds after the basil has become incorporated. Slowly add the olive oil and then add the cheese, mixing together.

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