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Gardening for Lent

“Grow! Grow! Grow!” That is Youngest Son talking to the many pots of basil on our deck. Why is an 11-year-old boy worried about the growth rate of basil? Because where there is basil, there is pesto sauce. And where there is pesto sauce there is “pesto pasta”. And that is one of his favorites.

All summer long I pinch the basil to keep it bushy and producing lots of leaves. I keep making pesto sauce that we enjoy on pasta, as a pizza sauce, as a sandwich spread, or any other way I think to use it. As the supply allows, I put an aliquot in the freezer to get us through the months when the basil is out of season. Most importantly it has to get us through Lent. Friday Lenten meals are often a pot of pasta with pesto sauce and a little grated Parmesan cheese. I ration the frozen reserves during the fall and early winter. I have to make sure I keep enough available for Lent. That is why my son is out on the deck exhorting the basil plants to grow. He wants plenty of pesto sauce in the freezer by the time the basil falls victim to the first frost.

So, yes, we are in the Easter season and we are headed for Pentecost and Ordinary time. But right now my gardening focus includes Lent. “Grow, Basil! Grow!”

Catholic Mom’s Pesto Sauce

Place the following in a food processor:

4 generous cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (not that powdery stuff in the green can)
1 head of garlic, roasted*. Peel cloves and add to mixture
3/4 cup toasted pecans. (I know pesto sauce usually uses pine nuts, but I’m from Texas so I use pecans.)
1/2 tsp salt—more or less to taste

Process until smooth
Scrape down sides of food processor bowl. Continue processing as you add a stream of good quality olive oil until the sauce is the desired consistency. I usually make it as thick as pudding. Adjust the salt if needed and your done.

To freeze, put about a cup in a plastic freezer container. Cover with a thin film of olive oil. Cover the surface with plastic wrap, pushing out any air pockets. Close the container and freeze. Thaw it when you are ready to use it, give it a stir, and you are ready to go.

* I use a handy dandy terra cotta garlic roaster. I just lop off the pointy end of a garlic head, put it on the roaster base, drizzle with a little olive oil, cover, and zap it in the microwave for 90 seconds. I can then squeeze the softened garlic from each clove.


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