a few weeks ago, my parents came to visit me here in NYC, and brought with them a bevy of fresh fruits and veggies – some from fairway, and others that had been hand delivered to my mother by her farm worker patients at the government-funded health center where she works.
let’s back up a bit. the town where i grew up is nothing short of idyllic, all rolling hills and freshly cut lawns and old victorians, with highly-rated public schools and well-paved sidewalks. it’s the sort of town where pedestrians have the right of way, where cars are required to stop for anyone on foot. the sort of town where, for the most part, everybody knows everybody. it’s the sort of town that allows lesbians on the bima at the synagogue (though my two mothers were the first at our shul to do so), the sort of town that then goes on to elect a lesbian mayor. it might not be pleasantville (our life is definitely lived in color…in the rainbow, really), but it’s pretty damn close.
which is why it’s surprising to hear that there are poorly-treated farm workers pulling sixteen hour days shelling soybeans not twenty minutes away from our picturesque new england main street. growing up in the pioneer valley, one thinks such atrocities wouldn’t occur. not in our house! not on our watch! we are a town of politically-minded left wing hippies who believe in equal rights for all. certainly, we wouldn’t allow such abuse to go on behind closed (or, heaven forbid, open!) doors. but since my mom took her job at the health center, i’ve heard quite a few horror stories, many of which come at the hands of people that are pillars of the local community.
i’ll leave you to infer what’s gone on by reading the article above – but trust me when i say that the people my mother cares for are, for all intents and purposes, people that have been left behind by this country. their rights, if they have any, have been violated, time and time again. and yet, many of them insist that the money they make here, the treatment they receive here – it’s worth it because it enables them to support their families, many of whom are back in their home country. they tell my mother things that breaks her heart. every single day. and somehow she still gets up each morning and does it again, like a brave, proud soldier, ensuring that anyone that steps over the threshold of her waiting room door gets the care they deserve. to say i have the utmost respect for the work she does would be the understatement of a lifetime. while i sit here and type up a dinky blog post, she’s out changing the world and making it a better place for everyone, not just for those who have been deemed by society and the law to deserve it.
it’s no surprise, then, that with all she does to care for these people (and she truly goes above and beyond, every day), they like to give back to her, oftentimes by bringing her a bit of their bounty. as part of their employment as farm workers, they’re allowed to take some of what they pick, and often, they bring it to her, and she, in turn, brings it to me. this visit, i was gifted with farm fresh kale, italian parsley, and the ugliest but tastiest tomatoes i’ve ever seen.
what does one do with kale and parsley? lots of things. parsley is a great garnish, and kale can be cooked, steamed, blanched, put into a salad, a pasta dish, a soup. but for some reason, i looked at my kale and immediately thought, what about pesto? so make pesto i did, with parsley and parmesan and sliced almonds and a whole lot of garlic. and i was worried that it’d be a bit weird, but to my surprise, it was totally delicious. and i made enough to have plenty to store in my freezer for later on.
so, let’s make some pesto with a side of politics, shall we?
note: pesto is one of those things that’s really all about taste-testing. so my “measurements” are more recommendations, because you might want more or less garlic, more or less cheese, or more parsley than kale. just stick your finger into the food processor (when it’s not running, obviously) and do a little taste test now and then.
About 6 cups of kale, slightly chopped (i used raw, but you could blanch yours slightly if you were so inclined)
1 1/2 cups parsley (don’t throw the stems in)
1 cup parmesan cheese (i used pre-shredded, but if you buy the real thing it’ll be way better)
1/2 cup sliced almonds (or walnuts, or any nut you choose – pine nuts would be great too)
2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped
to make, dole out all your ingredients and throw them into your food processor. i laid my kale in there first, then my parsley, then spread my almonds and my cheese on top, as you’ll see in the picture. then in went the garlic. then i poured enough olive oil into swirl the perimeter a few times. i’d estimate it was a few tablespoons, but again, pesto is a fluid recipe. you can add more or less depending on the texture you’re looking to achieve.
throw the top on and pulse to blend. if your pesto looks chunky, throw in a bit more olive oil and pulse some more. now, stop the motor and stick your finger (or a spoon, if you’re fancy and a germaphobe) in and have a taste. at this point, add salt and pepper if you think it needs it. mine didn’t, because parm and garlic are pretty darn salty already. once it’s reached a creamy consistency, remove and either mix immediately into pasta (which i did but forgot to photograph because i was too busy stuffing my face with deliciousness), or divy up into plastic bags to freeze.
note: you can see my bags above. what i do is scoop about two heaping tablespoons into a plastic foldover baggie. then i twist the tops so they make a little hershey’s kiss shape and tie the tops off. then snip off the extra with scissors. then i throw all the little baggies into one big freezer-safe baggie, and voila – pesto, whenever i want it. this is a trick i picked up from my parents, who’ve been making their own pesto for as long as i can remember thanks to the hords of basil that they grow in their garden. god bless suburbia, huh?