the first time i ate pesto was on an ashram in nevada city, california. i was about twelve, and we were there visiting a magical old friend of my mom’s named shanti (*not his real name). shanti used to be named something else, something closer to john smith, but ever since he went blind on a drug trip and some hippie found him dying under a bush in a park in chicago and took him home and put her hands over his eyes until he could see again, he’s gone by shanti. whatever your take on hippies and drugs and ashrams, there is another piece to the story which is undeniably magical:
before the drug trip and the blindness, john smith had decided he needed something more in his life. he had heard of this ashram called ananda in california, and was on his way there, hitchhiking i think, when the whole blind-in-chicago movie happened. and when the hippie chick healed his blindness with her hands, he asked her how she learned that kind of healing. and she said, i learned it at ananda. and that was the moment when everything changed for him, and he knew he was on the right path. it’s a path he’s still walking today, a path of kindness and right livelihood.
i think that’s a nice story.
anyway, on that day when i was twelve, after a long afternoon of floating our bodies down a lovely river in the hot sunshine, shanti told me we’d be having pesto for dinner. macerated leaves with garlic: it sounded horrible.
he gave me a basket and we walked to the garden and harvested some basil. my hands smelled sweet and green. then we went to the kitchen and in a heartbeat it was finished and i bravely put a spoon to my mouth and fell in love. and right then decided i would maybe like to marry him and spend my life at ananda, floating on rivers and eating pesto for the rest of eternity.
neither of those two things happened, but my love affair with pesto is still going strong.
i don’t use a recipe, just throw a bunch of basil, garlic, salt, pepper, pine nuts* & olive oil in a food processor. at the end i toss in some good, hard, italian cheese. (if i’m freezing it i leave out the cheese and mix it in when it’s time to use it.) also, i like to freeze pesto in an ice tray and then transfer it to a glass jar or ziploc bag for keeping through the fall and winter. that way, i only thaw as much as i need on any given day. because a great pesto is a terrible thing to waste.
wishing you the most wonderful summer weekend, filled with river floats and sunshine and happy things in your bellies. xo!
* i haven’t actually researched this, but according to my awesome local grocer, there’s a worldwide shortage going on, and china is the only country sourcing them. and for some reason, people are reporting that pine nuts from china are leaving an unpleasant metallic taste in their mouths for up to several weeks! so this year i’m subbing out the pine nuts for walnuts, and so far, so good.