You Say Tomato, I Say Pesto Print
Written by Lori C. Aronsohn   

Lori green tomatoIt was a happy overcast and muddy day in March when I visited the Tomatomania event in Encino to browse the rows and rows of heirloom tomato seedlings. This was destined to be a great year for tomatoes at my little house in Valley Village. This year, rather than trying to coax seedlings to reach for the sky and bear luscious fruit confined inside large pots, I’d be spoiling my seedlings in a section of freshly turned soil beneath my kitchen window -- growing in the ground the way nature intended.

I purchased ten delightfully named, heirloom tomato seedlings. I included a “Jaune Flammee,” and a “Snow White.” A “Missouri Pink Love Apple” and an “Old German.” My mouth watered at the thought of plucking real tomatoes from my own garden that tasted like those I picked at roadside stands in Iowa as a young girl.

I fed my seedlings properly with tomato food. They soaked up the sun and sipped on water. And, boy did they grow! As they started to blossom, I put in a nice healthy basil plant and a chili pepper too, anticipating the delicious ways I would combine them to please my loved ones.

I set aside recipes to follow once the harvest was in, but the one recipe I would enjoy the most was quite simple. Fresh tomato, add a little salt, a little pepper, eat!!!

Lori green tomatoWhen the first fruits started to appear I was ecstatic and showed the green, ripening fruits to anyone who I could drag out of the kitchen. But then something terrible, dreadful, almost too horrible to recall happen. My promising, plump tomatoes would disappear overnight.

Neighbors said it was possums. Others suggested birds. Some said rats.

But these rodents and birds were not going to ruin my autumn bounty. I made my way to the big box hardware store and bought a roll of netting. I tucked each of my towering tomato plants under a blanket of net and staked it to the ground as cozy as could be. And waited.

Soon, new fruits appeared. Some were like translucent marbles. Some were pear shaped. Some were round and weird and wrinkly. All asked for just a little more time on the vine to ripen. I erected a scary slingshot to help deter night critters.

It’s the end of September now, and I’ve yet to taste a single tomato. Although my plants are still producing great bounty, something in the night still sneaks beneath the netting, or works its beak between the holes to suck and munch on my tomatoes, leaving none for me.

The critters of the night don’t seem to have the same desire for basil or chili pepper. I guess I’ll just have to settle for pesto sauce over pasta.

Fresh Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a food processor, combine basil and pine nuts, pulse a few times. Add garlic, pulse a few times more. Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Scrape down sides of food processor. Add grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Lori is the author of "Iowa Farms, California Tables." For more information, visit http://iafarmscatables.com/