One a hot September day when you drive around town in your car with the broken air-conditioning, your shirt sticking to you and the sun beating down beautiful and hard, it’s nice to come back to your kitchen, pull herbs from your windowsill, nuts from the cabinet, and assemble something fresh and simple to eat.
That’s what I did today. I returned to the kitchen not just after a morning out working, but also after, for the most part, four days away from it altogether. After four days of no appetite and lots of fruit and lots of juice, I came back to one of the most normal things in my routine, one that always feels so strange to be away from—I came back to make something to eat.
I’ve noticed in my life, and I wonder if it’s true in yours, that when I’ve been away from food for a little while, whether because of fasting or because of traveling or because of illness or because of something else, the things I want most are simple things. There’s as much joy in an apple, sliced thinly on a plate, as there would be, on other days, in an elaborate four-course meal. I’m as thankful for some small-batch pesto, whipped up during lunch, as I was the week before for a three-layer cake. Going without something makes you see its value. Going without something simplifies what you think you need.
So today, I found great joy in two red tomatoes from our farmer, sliced onto two of our vintage wedding plates, topped by a quick pesto, a few breadcrumbs and balsamic. I got to assemble the meal, I got to want to eat it and then I got to take it, bite by bite, and bring it to my lips.
Vegan Basil Walnut Pesto
Makes one cup of pesto
The first question everyone asks about pesto is if you have to use a food processor. The answer is no! The food processor is the easiest option, but there are others. You could mix all these ingredients just as easily in a high-powered blender, for example. Or take a page from more traditional cultures, and use a large mortar and pestle (but wow, that would be more work!). I will say, however, that we use our food processor all the time (it’s this one from Cuisinart). And while $150 is no small cost, it’s worth it as the food processor has become one of my most useful kitchen tools.
1 cup walnuts
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup high-quality olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cloves of garlic, grated
Dash of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a food processor, and blend until smooth. Taste, and adjust to tastes: If you think it needs more salt, add some. If you want a little more kick, you could add more garlic or more red pepper flakes. And if you want the sauce to be thinner, add more olive oil.
Suggested serving idea: Slice a few fresh summer tomatoes onto a plate and drizzle or spread pesto on top of them. Finish with a slight drizzle of balsamic vinegar and maybe some breadcrumbs.