Sunday, October 18, 2015

End of the Season

Friday night was quite chilly here in the Ozarks. And Saturday morning I put away my summer robe and dug out the winter fleece one. My students at school are all talking about what they will be for Halloween, and my Facebook feed seems to be wall to wall pumpkin spice. I guess real Fall has arrived.
Real Fall means my wife and I must begin to winterize the potted herb garden on the back porch. The first step is always the basil. Basil loves the heat and turns brown in the chill. Here in the Ozarks, that means we do not even plant it until late May and by this time of year we need to harvest and process what remains.
We have found the best way to enjoy that fresh basil taste all winter is to make pesto and freeze portions in an ice cube tray. After the pesto is well frozen, we pop the cubes out and store them in a zip lock baggie for future use.
This post will not be a pesto lesson. Thousands of those exist already, complete with YouTube videos.
Instead I want to share a simple, easy dish we found that uses pesto. First, the ingredients:

Classic pesto, cubed slab bacon, frozen peas, and orzo. 

Yes, really, that is it, except of course salt and pepper.


1.5 cups dry orzo pasta 
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup cubed slab bacon (substitute 3 slices thick cut bacon if necessary)
1 cup pesto
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
olive oil for frying


Fry the bacon in olive oil in a large non stick skillet. When the fat has rendered and the bacon is crisp, pour off most of the fat. 

While the bacon fries, cook the orzo in salty boiling water but only until very al dente. When you test it, it should have a firm center and stick to your teeth. Drain the pasta, reserving a cup of the water.

Fill the skillet with bacon and 1/2 inch of tap water and bring it to the boil. Add the orzo and finish cooking the pasta while stirring. As needed add the reserved pasta water. 

When the pasta is done, add the frozen peas and continue stirring until the peas have warmed. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the pesto. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve with Parmesan and a nice red wine.

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