Basil, Parmesan, pine nuts and olive oil come together to make a fragrant pesto. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

Basil, Parmesan, pine nuts and olive oil come together to make a fragrant pesto. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)

On the strawberry patch: Pesto and presents

The fragrance of basil conjures Christmas memories

It is December 1997. I am 11 years old, and the Nintendo 64 console was the only thing on our wish list.

My sister and I spent the whole winter break that year with our dad, and he was determined to make it special. He found an enormous tree that stretched all the way to our vaulted ceiling, and we covered it in lights and candy canes and silver baubles. We spent our evenings stoking fires and watching movies together, passing a tin of flavored popcorn across our laps, our little legs propped up on the back of the giant dog snoring at our feet (we miss you, Bobo).

When the day finally arrived for us to open presents, we were thrilled to find our gaming system waiting for us under the tree. We spent that whole day in our flannel nightgowns, laughing and playing games with our dad on the living room floor.

It is one of the happiest memories of my childhood, and it smells like pesto.

Our dad is a tinkerer. Sometimes an engineer, sometimes a carpenter, often a mechanic. That year he was experimenting with indoor gardening and had chosen basil as his tester crop. For months the fragrant leaves perfumed our entire home, permeating our clothes and hair, following us wherever we went.

His garden did so well that we ended up with pounds of basil to use, and his solution was to make vast quantities of pesto that he froze in bags and stacked in our freezer.

It was delicious and convenient, and for a few months was a twin obsession, so we asked for it on spaghetti with a Caesar salad for dinner.

Ever since that year, pesto has reminded me of Christmastime and my dad. The smell of basil and pine nuts conjures images of racing games and candy wrappers, the sounds of giggles and teasing and cheers, and the thump-thump of our dog’s tail wagging lazily against the floor.

Pesto is quick, easy, and versatile, but you’ll need a food processor (preferably with a small bowl attachment) or a mortar and pestle to make it.


2 cups fresh basil

2 garlic cloves

1⁄3 cup olive oil

2⁄3 cup shredded Parmesan

¼ cup raw pine nuts

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Put half of your basil, the garlic, half of the Parmesan, and a few tablespoons of the olive oil into the small bowl of your food processor and blend until smooth.

Scrape the sides and add the other half of the basil and Parmesan.

While the processor is running, slowly drizzle the rest of the olive oil into the paste and continue blending until the texture is totally smooth and homogenous.

Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

To serve

Boil your pasta according to the instructions, strain and mix in the cold pesto until the pasta is completely coated.

It is important not to cook the pesto, or it will “break” — the oil will separate out — and you will have a clumpy oil slick instead of a smooth sauce.

Try it as a sandwich spread, salad dressing, or on top of baked chicken or salmon.

More in Life

Minister’s Message: What unites? Being one in Christ

It seems everywhere you look and on every level people are gridlocked

The secret to this homemade vegetarian lasagna is the addition of fresh noodles from scratch. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: The secret’s in the noodles

Handmade pasta adds layers of flavor to vegetable lasagna

Virginia Walters (Courtesy photo)
Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Downtime

Now here we are, two-thirds of the way through the longest month of the year

Robert “Bob” Huttle, posing here next to Cliff House, spent the night in this cabin in April 1934 and mused about a possible murder there. (Photo courtesy of the Huttle Collection)
Twists and turns in the history of Cliff House — Part 2

How much of the doctor’s actions Bob Huttle knew when he stayed in Cliff House 10 years later is difficult to know.

Achieving the crispy, flaky layers of golden goodness of a croissant require precision and skill. (Photo by Tresa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: Reaching the pinnacle of patisserie

Croissants take precision and skill, but the results can be delightful

This 1940s-era image is one of few early photographs of Cliff House, which once stood near the head of Tustumena Lake. (Photo courtesy of the Secora Collection)
Twists and turns in the history of Cliff House — Part 1

Here, then, is the story of Cliff House, as least as I know it now.

Minister’s Message: What’s in a name?

The Scriptures advise, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.”

Visitors put on personal protective equipment before an artist talk by Dr. Sami Ali' at the Jan. 7, 2022, First Friday opening of her exhibit, "The Mind of a Healthcare Worker During the COVID-19 Pandemic," at the Homer Council on the Arts in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
ER doctor’s paintings follow passage of pandemic

Dr. Sami Ali made 2019 resolution to paint every day — and then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Almond flour adds a nuttiness to this carrot cake topped with cream cheese frosting. (Photo by Tressa Dale/Peninsula Clarion)
On the strawberry patch: A ‘perfect day’ cake

Carrot cake and cream cheese frosting make for a truly delicious day off

Minister’s Message: A prayer pulled from the ashes

“In that beleaguered and beautiful land, the prayer endures.”

A copy of “The Year of Magical Thinking” by author Joan Didion is displayed on an e-reader. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Off the Shelf: Didion’s “Year of Magical Thinking” is a timely study on grief

‘The last week of 2021 felt like a good time to pick up one of her books.’