Basil Walnut Pesto

IMG_9979I went and saw the film CAPTAIN FANTASTIC yesterday and felt so many feelings, it brought back so much of my childhood, and it made me appreciate both the struggle and the great joy my unusual childhood was. Growing up in the counterculture was one of the greatest blessings and also remains one of the greatest conundrums for me – where exactly do I fit in in this world, which life and world do I belong to, and in so many cases how can I belong to both and do both justice.

To say the least I loved the film (thank you Anne yet again for sharing this life with me, being on this path as strange as it is, and knowing when to tell me to see a great movie!) I laughed at so much that I could identify with both in ways that made me happy and ways that made me slightly cringe. Like the scene where the family “frees food from the supermarket”; sadly my mother’s vision of free food moved past the soup kitchen she ran and for the better part of the first 3 years of my life she taught me to “free candy” (read steal) from the Cala Foods on 23rd and Van Ness. Those days passed but the stories stayed and mortified me into my 20s and very probably until yesterday when I saw the scene play out in a movie theater.


My mother taught me to live close to this earth and to tread lightly. To travel but leave as small a footprint as possible. To find the most uses for all items, to compost when possible, and to use as much of an ingredient and waste as little as one could. Let’s just say we are excellent left over people in my family! So what to do with the extra basil all summer, one thing always and its one of the things that was ubiquitous to my childhood pesto. Growing up in the 1980s in San Francisco I ate my share of pesto (some of my family might have lived primarily on pesto). Its beautiful and green and it makes sure to not waste any of the basil that might have been used sparingly in another recipe like Panzanella. Then just freeze it for another day! Waste not want not! “Take what we need but not more then necessary and remember to be grateful.” Words I still hear my mother say to this day.


The movie moved me to tears and made me realize for however much grumblings I might do about my childhood how lucky I was to be surrounded by such extraordinary love, boundless creative expressions, value on curiosity and acceptance, deep appreciation for nature, wonderful people, and such great food!

This is the simplest pesto recipe and at times I make smaller batches based on how much basil I have left. I use whatever nut (walnut, pine nut, pistachio, or almond) I might have in my house. This pesto is always frozen in my house and then used at later dates; one of my college roommates taught me to freeze pesto in an ice cube tray with each cube a perfect one serving portion. Once frozen I place the cubes in an airtight bag and take out however many is needed when I want pesto.


Basil Walnut Pesto


2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons walnut (or pine nut, pistachio, or almond)

2 garlic cloves chopped


1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or Romano)

This makes 5-6 servings of pesto

  • Briefly soak and wash basil leaves in cold water and gently pat it thoroughly dry.
  • Put the basil, olive oil, nuts, chopped garlic, and pinch of salt into blender or food processor. Process to a uniform, creamy consistency.
  • Transfer to a bowl and mix in the grated cheese by hand. When everything is well combined freeze for later use or spoon over hot pasta or onto crusty bread and enjoy!




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08 2016

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