See-Sawing Between the Seasons

September 15, 2008

As the late summer has slipped into a very autumnal mid-September, I find myself selecting recipe after recipe that allow me to sit on the fence. I don’t want to give up on summer just yet and the continued appearance of summer produce at the farmers’ markets, the occasional sunshine-soaked day and the fact that I still haven’t started my job at the law firm all combine to convince me that I don’t have to give up—not just yet. But there are other things—the early sun sets, the chilly evenings and my daily desire to pull out my sweaters and scarves—hurtling me toward fall.

As my brain see-saws between the two seasons, my palate does the same. One minute, I am craving a light, tart sorbet and the next minute I am hankering for pumpkin, baked into something sweet and tinged with baking spices that must have been born in the fall: cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, clove, ginger. And, well, it’s all rather confusing.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

So, instead of choosing sides, I’ve found recipes that don’t force me to. For instance, the recipe for my mother’s corn chowder: a steaming bowl of soup serves my need to eat cozily, but lacing the soup with golden niblets of fresh corn satisfies my desire to savor summer produce. Friday’s post—a summer squash gratin—did the exact same thing.

Today’s recipe falls into the same category. It’s a pesto—a sauce made for quick summer meals: pop out onto your fire escape/deck/backyard garden, snip a bundle of fresh herbs, and blitz it up in the food processor along with some toasted nuts, freshly-grated parmesan and a few glugs of olive oil. One can of course make pestos all year long, but the muted flavors and the sticker-shock-inducing price tags of the herbs in the little plastic containers in January make the whole experience rather unhappy. So, to me, it’s a summer sauce.

This pesto recipe trades the traditional basil for sage, a fresh herb that to me tastes like a mouthful of fall—earthy and woodsy. In short, it lets me have my cake (fresh herbs, a summer sauce) and eat it too (a fall flavor, comforting and warm). What about you all: is your cooking still staunchly summery? Or have you let summer drift away, preferring gourds and apples and the like? Or are you, like me, deciding not to decide?

Sage-Walnut Pesto

2/3 cup sage leaves
1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
1/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-cracked black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly-grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Place the sage, parsley, walnuts, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the mixture until a coarse paste forms. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the processor running, stream in the olive oil until a sauce forms. Transfer the sauce to a small bowl and stir in the grated cheese.

Up Next: Stay tuned tomorrow for a recipe that puts this pesto to use!

13 Responses to “See-Sawing Between the Seasons”

  1. eggsonsunday Says:

    Yum. I’ve never tried sage in pesto but I have two bushy variegated sage plants in the garden that would do this recipe proud, I think. How delicious it would be spooned over some roasted pork…

    I’m still on the fence, like you, but I am getting more and more excited by the day about autumn. It seems to depend on the weather: this past weekend it was humid and 80 (summer), but it’s now back to a delightfully cool and crisp 65, and I’m ready for fall dishes!🙂 –Amy

  2. Dawn Says:

    Okay, this is TOO wierd, because I just made pesto yesterday. We grilled polenta rounds (yes, we’re still grilling) topped with heirloom tomato slices (yes, we still have tomatoes) and a dollop of pesto, and served them with grilled (!) Italian sausages. But, I am waffling between summer and fall, as evidenced by the beef stew we cooked up a few days ago…a decidedly non-summery dinner.

  3. Robin Says:

    I always crave sage this time of year – just had a sage and butternut squash risotto that would have enjoyed this pesto in it I’m sure.

  4. Piper Says:

    Oooh, I love it! Anytime I can find a reason to make pesto, I’m content. And a new recipe sounds like a fantastic reason.

  5. Monica h Says:

    Well I’ve been craving pumpkin bread and muffins for a couple weeks now, but it’s still in the 90’s, somedays even in the 100’s and I just can’t get into the fall spirit. And I don’t want to turn my back on Summer- it’ll only be here for a few more weeks and we should not take that for granted. Ice cream sandwich anyone?

  6. sue bette Says:

    I am excited for fall, but still hanging on to summer in my kitchen – the summer produce is still looking so good! I love sage and walnuts so I will be putting this recipe into action this weekend.


  7. Amy: Yes, if the weather could make up its mind, I’d have a much easier time deciding which season to go with too.

    Dawn: That sounds like a fantastic meal! Yum.

    Robin: The risotto sounds incredible on its own — and then with a swirl of this pesto running through it? Heaven.

    Piper: I love a good pesto too.

    Monica h: I am almost, almost there with pumpkin. In the meantime, about the ice cream sandwich: yes please!

    sue bette: Let me know how it goes!

  8. sara Says:

    definitely refusing to give up summer…but anxious for fall! i will def have to try this pesto…sounds so good!


  9. sara: Do give it a try! Let us know how it goes.

  10. Hillary Says:

    Sounds like a great pesto that is absolutely perfect for this time of year.


  11. Hillary: Well said. Thanks for the note.

  12. Laura Says:

    I am making fall dishes (soups and bread) with summer produce(tomatoes, corn, fresh herbs, zucchini, etc).

    But I am unusual in preferring fall food over summer so it won’t be long before I give way entirely and start making everything with winter squashes and apples….

    This is a great idea–I don’t care for traditional pesto much, but sage I could really wrap my brain around….


  13. Laura: I suppose that’s just the opposite of this pesto, which is a summer dish with fall flavors. I think I’m with you on preferring fall foods. (But I might sing a different tune in the spring!)


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