05 October 2011


I can't eat garlic. It's a fairly recent development in my life; I used to pig out on it with quite shameless abandon. (I remember once, in my grade 12 year, going to a party to which most of my class was invited. It was the first time I tasted tzatziki. And it was excellent tzatziki; everyone had lots. The next day, the teachers walking into the classroom were practically knocked back out the door by the garlic fumes that were oozing out of our pores...) So, then, sometime in my thirties I developed a garlic intolerance. It's not too big a deal, not like a real allergy you could kill me with; it just gives me an upset stomach. (And, yes, I checked: my eyeteeth are not any longer or pointier than they were before, when I could still eat the stuff. Nice try.)

So, this whole thing is just a bit of a nuisance. Most of the items on the menu of my favourite restaurant are garlic-loaded; especially the appetizer section has nary a thing I can eat. But I've got used to that; it's not like my appetite is in any need of stimulation, as a rule, anyway. My man, on the other hand, really likes all those garlic-loaded foods, but then he complains that most of the menu is contaminated with either mushrooms, or shrimp, or both, neither of which he can stand (but I love). Never the twain shall meet...

I've learned over the years to just ignore certain foods, one of them being pesto. But then last year, I had some basil plants in the garden. I grew them because the man likes basil, but I don't actually like it, myself; so I was a bit stumped on what to do with it - didn't want to throw it into the spaghetti sauce, for one. I was leafing through one of the cookbooks I had picked up at the library sale the year before, and my eye fell on a recipe for pesto: basil, olive oil, parmesan, and GARLIC. Hmm, thinks I, this sounds like something the man might like! I dumped the requisite amounts of the stuff into the blender (it also calls for pine nuts, which I didn't have, so I left 'em out), whizzed it around, then called the man upstairs to taste it. Bingo! Not only did he like it, he loved it! Pesto on sandwiches, pesto as dip, pesto on scrambled eggs, pesto... You get the picture. Now the odd thing is that even though I can't tolerate garlic (even the smell nauseates me sometimes), and I don't like basil, when they're combined like that in pesto it smells really, really good.

Fast-forward to this past spring: based on last year's pesto binges, I planted lots and lots of basil. I made one big batch of pesto a couple of months ago, but I didn't quite cut the plants down to the ground; I left some standing. And what do you know, they re-grew! So I had another big bunch of basil sitting in the kitchen yesterday. Now what? I was tired of making regular pesto. Well, what about trying the milder bulb - what about onion pesto? I tried one smallish batch, with onion instead of garlic, so I could eat it myself. Tasted it, and it was fine. Didn't feel like dealing with the rest, so hung up the bundle of basil stalks in the basement beside the wood stove to dry.

Then today, come lunchtime, I pulled out the ham and the cheese, and my eye fell on that little jar of onion pesto in the fridge. Well, why not? Ham-cheese-mayo-pesto sandwich. One bite, and oh.... my.... goodness!! That stuff is divine! I wasn't even done eating the sandwich before I reassembled the blender, and marched downstairs (still munching), plucking the basil bunch back off the drying line. So now I have two more ice cube trays filled with onion pesto nicely solidifying in the freezer, to be pulled out in handy little cubes and thrown into delicious food combinations in the dead of winter.

It just goes to show, doesn't it. I could have missed out on this amazing treat if I had let my garlic intolerance and my previous dislike for basil keep me from at least trying this. I'm converted to the rank of the pestorians - pestolentials - anti-anti-pestos - ah, whatever. I officially love pesto!

Oh, and in case you're wondering: 2 c fresh basil leaves, 1/2 c olive oil, 4 cloves garlic or 1 smallish onion, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 c parmesan. Whiz in blender. (If you want to do the pine nut thing, 2 Tbsp of those, toasted. I don't bother.)

Life, the Universe, and Pesto. Do give it a try.


  1. Sounds delicious and isn't basil accommodating. We love pesto/mayo anything, actually. It is great on tortillas (warmed in a pan) topped with tomatoes, cheese, onion, etc. I don't use pine nuts either although I sub walnuts. I think pesto without any nuts might be what the French call Pistou? I've had some of that in a bean soup/potato before and it is divine.

    Speaking of the library sale...perhaps I'll see you there? I think I'm getting to the stage now where I feel safe going without a truck to bring home my finds. ;-)

  2. Yes, I just found out about the Pistou thing, too. So I guess that's what I made.
    And you bet I'm going to the library sale - even though I haven't even read everything I got last year . But you never know what goodies might escape you if you don't go!

  3. Oh thanks for this Ange! I love pesto, but have never made it myself...will need to try that to! It sounds yummy!

  4. It's not only yummy, but also ridiculously easy to make! Keeps in the fridge for some time (although the top goes a bit brown, but doesn't seem to matter to the taste), and you can freeze it, too.