Despite the best efforts of a brigade of blister bugs who gnawed eagerly at my basil seedlings last month, I gathered my first batch of basil leaves this afternoon. I’ll be making pesto for dinner tonight. Then I’ll fill a cookie tray with dollops of pesto and slide it into the freezer. When the little mounds of pesto are frozen solid, I’ll pop them into a plastic bag and keep them until they’re needed. Usually that means I’m concocting the classic pesto and pasta, a scandalously easy dinner for hot nights when serious cooking is less inviting than a visit to the searing sections of hell.
Equally quick and easy, assuming a willingness to heat up the oven, is this: insinuate one of those thawed dollops of pesto under the skin of a chicken breast or thigh. A half hour later, the skin is crispy, the meat is savory and dinner is underway. Sprigs of tarragon or rosemary, I’ve discovered work equally well. I grab my scissors, do a little snipping in my herb garden and ensconce the chicken on the sprigs that haven’t been slid between skin and meat. That way the flavor permeates from two directions.
So I take great pleasure in my herb garden, which also boasts thyme, oregano and mint. Already I have bunches of oregano hanging from a shower rod. Whether I’m cooking Mexican or Italian style next winter, I’ll be using my own dried oregano.
Nice. But my pride and joy this summer is my apricot. Yes, apricot. Singular.
Everywhere in Santa Fe now pavements are smeared and sticky from the pulp of unwanted apricots allowed to rot and plop to the ground from overhanging trees. I don’t understand this. How can anyone let these luscious apricots go to waste? The same thing happens during cherry season. The walkways are littered with pulp and pits. A crime. A sin.
Happily there are those who take proper advantage of the fact that apricots and cherries, though not native, thrive here. Their fruity, wholly natural jams and jellies are available at the Farmers’ Market. Some people present a bottle of wine to the host and hostess when they’re invited to dinner. I take jars of local jam. It’s that good. I also make up boxes of jams for gifting at Christmas.
I planted an apricot tree shortly after I moved into my newly renovated house. When spring came, my tree burst into blossom just as it was supposed to. What visions I had! Bowls and bowls of perfectly ripened apricots. Golden apricots. With a pink blush to them. Me, slurping lasciviously. Licking my lips and fingers. Having another. And another. Then came a vicious early April freeze. The blooms went brown. They fell off. No apricots that year.