Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Ask Not For Whom the (telephone) Bell Tolls...

This started out to be my official GYO post for June.

However, my well organized midday stint in the kitchen yesterday was interrupted. A home cook is often subject to unscheduled breaks, and the resulting missteps can sometimes take a well planned mise en place and turn it into something more resembling a disaster area. The GYO Post resulted, but not quite as directly I as had originally planned.

What follows immediately may seem to have nothing to do with food OR fun, much less a GYO offering. But trust me, like trying a new recipe, all the ingredients finally come together - eventually.

Here in Texas we all just expect folks "of a certain age" to obsessively talk about the weather. In a state where most folks used to ranch or farm, knowing about, anticipating and/or coping with the weather used to play quite a dominant role in financial success.

As the years passed, cities grew, the economy changed, and now so few folks are directly involved in agriculture, that most of the time when older Texans gather, their weather talk takes the form of a "top this" exchange of inclement weather stories.

It typically plays out as a variation on this theme: "I remember when I lived in (name of city/town) and it (description of some sort of natural disaster). "Yup!" starts the next turn. "It started to (weather action verb) so hard a (heavy inanimate object) was sucked through/shoved over a (large geographic feature)!".You get extra style points for severity adjectives and if you can remember the month and year of the event, you win that round and the game begins again. The only addition to the rules of "top this!" is that now, if you have a first person Katrina experience, you automatically win the entire exchange. Fair is fair.

All this by way of explaining how it came to pass that when our insurance adjuster, a guy venturing into that "certain age" category himself, called today about the eventual (think:hopefully during our natural lifespan) replacement of our hail damaged roof, he began and I nearly automatically responded with a typical Lone Star style back and forth about places we had lived, and bad storms we had seen.By the way, if there were ever need in a court of law to establish beyond any shadow of a doubt that I have personally crossed that territorial divider between "slightly older" and "geezer-in-training"? No need for birth certificates or calendars either one. This slip into "top that weather story" domain would grant an automatic "dotage" verdict from any jury, any day.

So, today, I spent more minutes than I care to admit on the phone with an insurance adjuster (a nice guy, don't get me wrong), reminiscing about bad weather I have personally experienced.

And while I was indulging my inner Texas Weather geezer on the telephone today, I frickin' French Roasted the second of my two batches of pine nuts.See for yourself. Two batches, one golden, one, um, "super golden".

I'd already successfully roasted one batch of pine nuts, and even photographed the contrast between the raw pine nuts (bowl on the right) and the very nicely toasted pine nuts (bowl on the left) to showcase the difference. Those poster children for nicely toasted nuts were going safely into the freezer for later in the season. That left me with their evil super roasted not so identical twins. So, unless I was willing to throw the over browned nuts out altogether, my only remaining hope was that the grinding up of that second batch would add an "extra layer" of flavor into my GYO pesto that nobody would quite be able to put their finger on. It would be great, I thought, if the more-than-toasted-nuts would join their little ingredient hands to the other strong flavors in the pesto without raising too big a "she burned the nuts!" stink about it.

I couldn't be certain at all that this optimism would be justified because, truth be told, in addition to the fact I had gotten distracted while on the telephone and burned the pine nuts, I have never (EVER) made pesto from scratch before. (Cue gasp from reader.) I know it is silly but pesto is so readily available and comes commercially prepared in so many delicious varieties, I never thought to make my own. The locally made stuff I get from the store is amazing. Could/would fresh taste any better? Would the French Roast nuts take the advantage of home made away?

I had my ingredients, including my French Roasted pine nuts, all assembled for Grow Your Own #11. It was time to answer the question, "How hard is it to make good pesto at home from scratch (with nearly burned nuts)?".

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