Arugula-Basil-Kale Pesto and a Tribute of a SortApril 30, 2013 at 7:21 am | Posted in Dinner, Lunch, Pasta | 39 Comments
Tags: Arugula, arugula pesto, Basil, Fettuccine, garlic, Lemon, Olive Oil, pesto
About two weeks ago, the Sunday after the bombings in Boston..I started to think about life in a whole new perspective. It’s not a perspective I might follow – just errant thoughts…pondering….weighing options.
These thoughts led to my remembering an old friend, someone who was there for me through thick and thin for many years, as I was for her. She had some issues that were alarming at times, so much so that I found myself unconsciously pulling away from her bit by bit..a slow, torturous break-up. She was starting to scare me and I told her that many times. She would just laugh wickedly.
Soon life took us in different directions, and our friendship dissipated. We spoke one more time about 4 years ago..catching up, and I could tell she wanted to renew our friendship, but I had my own problems and didn’t think I could handle hers.
After the bombings, I started to think about people from my past…good people. Despite her issues, she was one of them. I knew she had moved, but I’d lost her new number so I decided to look her up online. She had to have a facebook, twitter, or something, since she was the epitome of sociable – she loooooved to talk, even more than me. There was no way she wasn’t partaking in online chatter, connecting and reconnecting
There’s not many moments more jarring than clicking ‘search’ for a former friend…and the first thing that comes up is an obituary.
I stared at the search result in shock…for a long time. I didn’t want to open it because it was definitely her. I was almost begging it to go away. I had yet to hear of anyone in my age group..whom I know or used to know, dying, especially someone I was once close with. Actually, that’s not accurate. A classmate died in a car accident my senior year of high school, but I was too young to really grasp the situation..or rather, want to fully realize it at that age. We’re all immortal at 17 and 18 - we were all going to live forever. His death was a fluke, right?
I recall that the night before his death he gave his girlfriend a hickey, and it never went away. We would rub it to make sure she wasn’t putting makeup on it, but it was spooky real and up until the last time I saw her, maybe Thanksgiving homecoming during my freshman year of college, it was still there and couldn’t be rubbed off.
I knew exactly how she died before I opened the obituary. I took a deep breath and clicked on it.
She took her own life, just as I thought. It didn’t actually say ‘suicide’ or ‘took her own life’, but the request for where donations be made in her name, confirmed it. She was never suicidal, or so I thought..but with her mental health issues, once I saw the obituary, I didn’t even consider ‘accident’ or ‘disease’…I just knew.
She died last December.
I saw she had a facebook page, so I checked it out. It’s mostly public, so I could see her wall. She was posting a lot two days before her death…long paragraphs in response to simple greetings or statements – using lots of caps and exclamation points. She was manic..I’d seen it many times in person. I could hear the rise and fall of her voice through the text.
Since learning of her death, I’ve spoken to some who knew her, including her ex-boyfriend who is a friend of mine, and through whom we met A lot of them say..she was gorgeous, why would she kill herself?
They don’t understand. Yeah, she was gorgeous, but she didn’t care. Looks don’t trump or fix mental anguish..looks are surface.
After the horrific bombings in Boston, which hit close to home because I went to college in Boston, just a hop, skip and jump from Boylston street, and now this….I was spent emotionally.
Boylston street was where I spent many a late afternoon/early evening studying at the Boston Public Library when I couldn’t find the books or information I needed at my University library. Afterwards, I would reward myself with a shopping spree and sometimes dinner alone, on Boylston or Newbury street, at a cafe or nice restaurant, basking in my new found grownup independence and relishing alone time without feeling lonely.
I felt a a range of emotions about the bombings, from anger to sadness. I almost wanted to personally hurt the bombers..maim them in some way, like they did to the surviving victims Then I felt guilt..guilt that my friend took her life. What if I hadn’t backed out of our friendship and was there to talk to her or be with her that night? Could have I prevented it in some way?
Okay, so I’m all over the place in this post, and the thought of food paired with such sadness seems a little gauche, huh? Well it isn’t and I’ll tell you why. Food is comfort when bad or sad times arise. It’s customary to bring food to those who have lost a loved one, so this is my offering. This pesto is a tribute to my old friend.
Every night..no matter what time I got home, or even if I was asleep, she would call once her BF..soon to be, husband, was asleep. She never slept at night..she couldn’t. She took her slumbers during the day. She was afraid..she was battling inner demons, so I always answered the phone. We would chat about anything and everything, for hours. She wanted to learn to cook, and would occasionally ask me to explain certain recipes..the terms in them..techniques etc.
She loved pesto, and one summer night, while sitting in her backyard talking to me..she inhaled a basil plant in her father’s garden and told me she was dying for pesto at that moment. I can still hear her, in between drags of her cigarette;
“Oh, man, what I wouldn’t do for a plate of pasta and pesto right now. I need to learn to effin’ cook.”
Since she slept all day..2 am was right about dinner time.
I told her she could do it and took her through it on the phone, step-by-step, giving her a basic basil pesto recipe Thankfully, she could boil pasta..so it was a win for her and a win for me because it soothed her enough to let me go back to sleep.
The arugula – basil pesto recipe below stems from a cookbook review I did for The Daring Kitchen back in 2009. The photos are from 2009 too, but over the years I’ve played with the recipe… tweaked it with additions and subtractions, and it’s perfect..to me. I wish my friend was still here so I could give her this recipe. She would have loved it.
Makes about 1 1/2 to 2 cups pesto
1 1/4 cups (loosely packed) fresh basil leaves
2 cups (loosely packed) fresh arugula
3/4 cup, torn kale, blanched for 1 to 2 minute, then dried thoroughly *
2/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2/3 cup pistachio nuts OR walnut halves, toasted
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 to 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (the secret ingredient – start with 1 teaspoon..add second, if it needs it, once the oil is added)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lukewarm water (If you’re serving it over pasta..use the pasta water)
freshly ground pepper
About 1 pound fettuccine or pasta of your choice
* If you don’t have or like kale, use baby spinach leaves but don’t blanch them
Place the first 7 ingredients in a food processor (or you can do it the old-fashioned, arm and wrist straining way – a large mortar and pestle! I do it that way occasionally. I swear it tastes better). Pulse to a thick paste. With the motor running fully, slowly drizzle through the feed tube the 3/4 cup olive oil and 2 tablespoons water. Process until smooth. Season pesto to taste with salt and pepper. Boil fettuccine in salted water until al dente, then toss with pesto. You can make this pesto 2 days ahead. Pour a thin layer of oil over pesto; cover and chill.
If serving along side something…as a dip, or a topping for fish or meat..rather than over pasta..drizzle a little olive oil over the top.