Why am I feeling so guilty about buying a huge bunch of organic basil?
Practicing locavorism...eating locally grown foods that are in season...can be challenging and downright bleak in the dead of winter in Jackson, WY.
Memories of basil from the Farmers' Market last summer.
Having depleted the enormous supply of basil pesto stashed in the freezer, I was in dire need of fresh basil to make a new batch. My goal was to find basil grown in one of the local greenhouses, but there was none.
Before I knew it, my shopping bag (canvas, ReduceReuseRecycle, for the record) was filled with organic basil trucked all the way from Oregon, organic spinach from California, and Parmigiano-reggiano all the way from Northern Italy.
Once you make your mind up that you've got to have some basil spinach pesto, locavoristic ethics take a back-seat. Especially in January in Wyoming.
I redeemed myself by using local garlic, grown just a few miles away at Ted Wells' Alpenglow Farms in Victor, Idaho.
The wind blows so hard that our trees do indeed grow sideways. Grand Teton National Park, going up Granite Canyon.
The source of my guilt is multifactorial, as we like to say in the medical world. In this enlightened foodie era, we must know where our food comes from, and be very sensitive to the impact we make by demanding foods out of season, that must travel long distances to reach us, like strawberries in winter.
Some of the fattest snowflakes I've ever seen.
We must also be aware that changing our habits of consumption will change what we see at the grocery store.
The harsh reality remains that it is a long, long, long, winter here in the Tetons in Western Wyoming/Eastern Idaho. We love it that snowstorms begin in October and don't abate until May (or June). We wouldn't have it any other way.
But all this snow has it's price when you live in a valley surrounded by mountains, where a plate of Pad Thai costs more than in New York City. In a town where the basil travels almost a thousand miles in the dead of winter.
Sometimes you've just got to indulge your craving for bright, green, imported, crunchy foods.
I use an overflowing 4 cups of packed basil/spinach in a 50:50 ratio.
This batch of pesto was especially delicious, I might add. The basil tasted fresh despite its long voyage to the Tetons, and the spicy bite of Arbequina olive oil from California Olive Ranch really came through.
The garlic was grown just a few miles from my house, over the pass in Victor, Idaho at Ted Wells' Alpenglow Farms. Once you taste Ted's garlic, you'll never go back.
A recent article on National Public Radio's Kitchen Window helped sooth my guilt about purchasing foods from far, far away: Go to NPR.org
to read Peggy Bourjaily's view on Practical Locavorism, for more Locavore Survival Tips, and some great seasonal recipes.
My new creed: Be a locavore most of the time, indulge your cravings the rest of the time. Sometimes you just gotta have some pesto. Amen.
Basil Spinach Pesto
Everyone makes pesto, and this is how I do it. I like to use a food processor so that the consistency is nice and smooth. Toasting the pine nuts gives them more flavor, it you have time. I use the best parmigiano-reggiano I can get my hands on and a very decent olive oil. The olive oil drives the flavor of the pesto: peppery, mild, or grassy, your choice. Fresh basil and baby spinach leaves must be pristine, with no brownish edges; that will ruin your batch for sure.
- 4 cups packed basil/baby spinach or all basil (half and half is good)
- 2 large cloves of garlic or 4-5 small ones, peeled and whole
- 2 oz. parmesan-reggiano cheese, cut into small chunks
- 1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
- 1 cup high quality olive oil
- 1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
- Rinse and dry the spinach and basil. A salad spinner is handy for this.
- With the motor running, drop the garlic cloves into the food processor, and process to small bits.
- Add the parmesan chunks and process until no large pieces remain.
- Add the pine nuts and pulse 5-6 times.
- Add the basil, spinach, and sea salt, and process again.
- With the motor running, pour the olive oil in a slow steady stream through the top of the food processor. Process until the pesto is as smooth as you like.
- Slather the pesto on a slice of bread. Taste. Add more salt if you like.
In a quest to expand my culinary universe, I'll be posting a new word and definition for you to digest at the end of each post. Here's your first word...enjoy!
Umami: A fifth taste, representing a certain kind of savory meat-enhanced flavor. Taken from a Japanese word for "tasty."