It really feels as though spring has finally, joyfully, arrived in New York.
Baby ducklings are waddling through the park, a bird has made its nest in the back of my friend Keithâ€™s air conditioner, which leaves him with something of a moral dilemma, and the seedlings that only a few weeks ago looked as fragile as Bambi are thrusting out of the pots on my balcony in a virile fashion.
All around: fertility in action. Nature is heating up, and, even in the midst of the city, the primal pull is hard for people to ignore.
Heading (in a meandering and slightly jet-lagged way) through the village to meet Jon for wine after work I fell in step with a young-ish hipster guy and his ditsy-looking girlfriend as they lingered to look in the windows of the various tattoo parlors along west 4th.
â€œYou know something?â€ said the guy
â€œNo!â€ said his girlfriend. â€œWhat?â€
â€œIâ€™m gonna get a tattoo. For you! Iâ€™m gonna get â€œI love you Babyâ€ inside of a heart.â€
â€œThatâ€™s so nice!â€
â€œYeahâ€ he agreed.
â€œI love you,â€ she smiled.
â€œI love you too. So I was thinking of getting â€œI love you Bridget,â€ but then I thought, what if we break up? then Iâ€™d be in trouble. And I knew you wouldnâ€™t want that, right, coz you love me, right?â€
â€œSo I thought â€œBabyâ€. Much better idea.â€
Itâ€™s a bit like asking someone who loves you to marry you â€¦ for tax reasons, or â€¦ to get a visa. Itâ€™s the right idea but so utterly, utterly wrong. So close, but so far.
Pesto from a jar compared to pesto from a fresh basil leaf is the culinary equivalent.
Itâ€™s fine. So far as it goes. Itâ€™s convenient. Itâ€™s useful to have around. But it isnâ€™t the real romantic deal.
The basil is growing! From seeds to proper plants. So now itâ€™s time to eat it.
Spaghetti with fresh basil pesto (serves 2 with pesto left over)Â½ pack of spaghetti 2 handfuls of fresh basil leaves 1 handful of pine nuts 1 handful of freshly grated parmesan 1 fat clove of garlic Olive oil (mild, not extra virgin) â€“ about 1 cup Salt and pepper
- Put a large pan of water on the heat, clamp a lid on and crank up the gas
- Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts in a dry pan until they start to turn golden. Keep an eye on them because they can burn in a heartbeat
- Tip the pine nuts into a processor along with the herbs and the cheese
- Chop the garlic clove to make life easier for the processor, then add and blitz
- Pour olive oil down the feed tube until you have a fairly thick paste
- Season well with salt and pepper
- Salt the now boiling pasta water and add the spaghetti. Cook for 1 minute less than the packet instructions so that it is still al dente
- Drain the pasta but not too well â€“ the water helps with the texture of the sauce
- Add about 2 tablespoons of the pesto and stir well to combine â€“ you may want to add a bit more, see how it looks
- Season with freshly ground black pepper and serve (possibly with a tomato salad on the side and some focaccia bread)
- Freeze the leftover pesto for another (happy) day (I freeze it in an ice cube tray – three cubes make pasta for two people)
If You Can Make That You Can Make This
- Drizzle the pesto over sliced beef tomatoes
- Or over fresh mozzarella slices
- Or over mozzarella and beef tomato slices
- Or over steamed asparagus, with a little lemon zest grated over the top
- Spread it on toasted slices of French bread, top with goat cheese and grill
- Pour a few tablespoons of white wine in a baking dish, add salmon fillets, dab with pesto, cover with foil and bake for 15 mins at 350f
- Add a splash of lemon juice and use as a sauce for hot lamb chops
- Spread on a ready bough puff pastry sheet, top with cherry tomatoes and bake for a tomato tart
- Make pesto puff pastry twists
- Or add a tablespoon to either of these potato salad recipes
- Toss with cooked cooled orzo, baby mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes for a fabulous picnic salad
- Spread on ciabatta, top with grilled chicken and tomatoes for a delicious sandwich