It isn’t difficult for me to go on and on about the food I grew up eating. It’s as familiar to me as the back of my hand. I could write forever about Thanksgiving meals and explain in detail what appeared on plates from Christmas to Easter. I can write about chit’lins,black-eyed peas,collard greens and cornbread stuffed with cracklings, that never failed to appear at every New Years dinner table. I can write about huge Sunday breakfasts that were precursors to Sunday dinners. I can describe in detail the meal my mother cooked and had waiting for me, when I returned home from the hospital with my newborn son, after I’d complained about having to eat hospital food for seven days.
They are foods that are steeped in family tradition. Passed from one generation to the next. I know because I have had the privilege of eating these foods at the tables of cousins and aunts and great aunts. Food that I have cooked again and again for my own family. I could write about this food with little or no effort and tell great stories to go along with it.
Writing about the food I love to cook now is a different story all together. Only because the food I like to cook now was never a part of my family tradition but hopefully it will be a part of my children’s along with older family traditions.
I begged my mother to make macaroni and cheese. My daughter begs me to make cheesy pasta,don’t be fooled by the humble name, it’s a dish rich with butter,cream and real parmesan cheese.
My sons beg me to make an even richer shrimp dish that is referred to as New Orleans barbecue shrimp and begins by making an enriched seafood stock.
My family is willing guinea pigs. I make something,they try it and if it meets their approval it becomes a part of our family meals.
Had I ever mentioned pesto to my mom or dad they would have both looked at me and questioned what it was. In my house we like pesto. It appears at least once every summer. I think of it as the quintessential summer sauce, it’s quick to make,the ingredients are easy to get and it doesn’t have to be cooked. Pesto is also extremely versatile. I usually make a big batch,freeze some and leave the rest in a container in the refrigerator to be added to other things.
It’s great slathered onto leftover grilled chicken,excellent on pasta,mixed into vinaigrettes for salads,put onto grilled bread for a snack-the possibilities are endless. As long as I have a container of homemade pesto in the refrigerator, I know I won’t be wondering what to eat.I made a quick-lunch by sauteing shrimp and putting it on top of linguine with arugula pesto. Traditionally pesto is made with basil but can be made with herbs and other types of greens. I’ve even seen a recipe for fennel frond pesto which I would like to try. I used arugula because I had some leftover from a salad. Arugula has a peppery bite so it makes a much different pesto than one made with grassy-aromatic basil. I also used pecans instead of pine nuts because they are a good match with the biting bitterness of arugula. That’s another thing I like about pesto-it can be made using different combinations of nuts, greens,herbs and cheeses.
I promise you this will be the easiest sauce you will ever make. A few ingredients and a couple of rounds in a blender or food processor and you’ve got pesto.
It’s funny, I have never made pesto for other family members and only because when we get together we all want food that we grew up with that are familiar to us all. I’ve been thinking it’s time to add to family traditions and the next time we are all together I will definitely be making a batch of pesto.
Recipe: arugula pesto
4 cups(packed) arugula leaves
1 fat garlic clove
1/4 cup pecans,toasted in a pan and chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 good olive oil
Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Eat and enjoy.