Thursday, July 05, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging: Pesto Presto Squaghetti

We had just finished dinner, and the Kiddo polished off more of my latest recipe than I did. This is a major feat since she weighs one-fifth what I do. She loves pesto. If I put roasted garden veggies in front of her, she would not like the mix. Cover it in pesto and Presto! It’s gone. Around here, pesto is better than cheese sauce. And, that was one good batch of pesto. I had used two kinds of basil; the sweet, bright green common basil and the earthier, more subtle opal basil with its deep purple leaves.

We cleared the dishes, and she pulled me over to the spice cabinet for our favorite pastime — smelling the spices and herbs. Tonight, the herb shelves caught her eye, and we began opening jars. She handed me the basil.

“Oh, we just ate this! But it tastes and smells different when it is dried.”

Blank look from the peanut gallery. She’s not yet three, after all, and I didn’t even get the difference of fresh vs. dried herbs until I was out of college. Oh boy, how do we explain this one? I thought.

“Okay, let’s go outside.” I said. We took the jar and went to visit the basil plants. I handed her fresh leaves from the plants to smell, both the sweet basil and the deep purple opal variety. I showed her the jar and we smelled them all. Then, she ate the basil leaves. She does this often. She used to eat the dirt, too. I’m not sure what that says about my cooking.

As I was trying to teach my little one about basil, I learned a bit myself. I had planted both kinds of basil in the same pot. Probably one of those amateur gardener mistakes, huh? As the plants have grown, the deep purple opal basil plants started getting mottled green and purple leaves, and some leaves were completely green. The sweet basil started getting some of the purple coloration.

So, I did a bit of research. Many basil plants are the same species, Oscimum basilicum, even ones that look as distinct as Thai Basil and Green Bush Basil. The varieties are referred to as cultivars. However, if allowed to cross-pollinate, as mine did, they lose their distinct characteristics. The hapless (clueless in my case) gardener ends up with green-purple-mottled-sweet-spicy basil. And some pretty tasty pesto.

The recipe I created for it was another one of those happy accidents. You see, I have this odd aversion to mushy summer squash. I am always trying to find new ways to fix it that I like. I decided to use long strands of squash as part of the “noodles” in the dish. Less mush to noodle ratio or something like that. To make the squash noodles, leave the peel on a long zucchini, and make long sweeps using a lemon zester. Continue zesting until you hit the seeds, turn the squash and start the next strip. The dark green peel adds a lot of color. The end result looks like this.


Looking for this recipe? It will be part of an upcoming book with Ali at Cleaner Plate Club.

Want more fresh herb ideas? This post is part of the Weekend Herb Blogging "carnival," hosted this week by Mele Cotte.


Chris said...

What a great recipe! Thanks for participating. I must say, I love hearing about teachable moments with kids....makes me miss the classroom!

Kalyn said...

Very interesting. I didn't realize that basil would cross pollinate, even tough I've grown it a lot. Sounds like your kiddo is a future food blogger! The recipe sounds great.

The Expatriate Chef said...

Thanks, it was fun to write about. I am looking forward to seeing the other posts!

katiez said...

When I read the description I thought you were talking about 'spaghetti squash'.
I like this ides even better! Great way to use the ever-prolific courgette!
If I ever get the gold ones I planted to fruit I could make a very pretty dish...thanks for the idea ;-)