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Cookbooks 3: :Lorel Nazzaro, also John Cage

3.     Lorel Nazzaro. Each summer our garden flourishes with beds and pots of basil. Italian basil is the sweetest and best for the purposes of pesto. Snails lose interest once the stalks have grown and when full grown the leaves can be picked off to let out new leafage. Supplemented with occasional basil bunches from the shops, we live on pesto until the autumn. Lorel Nazzaro’s ‘Pesto Manifesto’ (Chicago Review Press, 1988) contains many recipes, even Green Eggs and Ham, but only one pesto recipe, to be found on page 9, which she titles The Recipe. I have copied it out below © Lorel Nazzaro. Her family are Neapolitan, so out of respect I will not engage here in the annual spat over who invented pesto, Naples or Genoa. That’s their problem. Variations on the basic mixture should apply John Cage’s amiable directions: “Combine everything in a cuisineart. Then taste and adjust amts., a little more of this or that, a little less being out of the ? … Experiment, never settling on any one of them.” (‘The Sun & Moon Guide to Eating through Literature and Art’, Los Angeles, 1994, page 55) A cuisinart is an American food processor. Because Cage was macrobiotic however, instead of Parmesan he uses miso. If you wish to be experimental like Cage, I guess it’s worth the try.    
Recipe. Lorel Nazzaro writes that you blend thoroughly in a blender or food processor 3 cups of firmly packed fresh BASIL LEAVES, 2 large cloves of GARLIC, 2 tablespoons grated PARMESAN CHEESE, and seven-eighths of a cup of OLIVE OIL. Never use the basil stalks, it’s all about what’s in the leaves. Pecorino or some other stronger Italian hard cheese is okay, while Grana Padano makes a softer pesto. After blending, add half a cup of PINE NUTS and blend some more. At home this is all usually done as the pasta is boiling, so the pesto is mixed directly with the pasta after its drained. Freshness is all. Lorel says this makes 12 ounces, though we just use whatever basil is available and modify the ingredients accordingly. My only warning is not to use too much cheese as this can overwhelm the magical factor, the basil.


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