Number 45   November - December 2005


By Dick Malott

Audrey Kovacs delivering her winning pesto

This year, Harvest Day of basil and other herbs in The Huntington Herb Garden for the Pesto Festival was Wednesday, October 19. It was rather overcast. But, the faithful smelled and tasted and picked a variety of those tasty, pungent, and colorful herbs under the supervision of Head Gardener Katarina Eriksson and Gardener Beverly Lepak. Then the participants headed home with visions of pesto possibilities.

They returned, nine of them, with ten recipes, the next day, Thursday, October 20 at 11:30 a.m. for the 14th annual Huntington Pesto Festo. They would be judged by those devotees in the know?Staff, Volunteers, and Readers, their peers. Each entry was numbered and a recipe provided. Katarina provided small slices of bread, plates and spoons. The culinary judges, i.e., all of us present, numbered around the edge of our plates and placed corresponding samples next to the number. And, then, the joy began! Most of us had to go back for seconds, and even thirds, to compare our final selection of the best. Contented hums and murmurs floated around the west end of the Herb Garden as we vacillated as to the ?best? of those nutty, slightly bitter and oily but rich, thick, green mixtures.

While we waited for everyone to finish, we sampled two wonderful desserts, baked by everyone?s favorite resident food historian and Herb Garden Volunteer, Judy Polinsky. One choice was a low-fat brownie with yogurt (no butter) and a rare fresh Belgian cocoa. The second was a high-energy cocoa cake with Kahlua. I am sure I have certainly aroused your hunger by now.

The voting was eagerly performed with some definite differences by about thirty of us since besides a wide variety of ?regular? pestos, there were also a delicious pesto salad, and an unusually tasty pesto roulade.

The tally showed the following:

Tied For First Place:

Maria Blumberg ? Staff ? Library Assistant ? Acquisitions (left)
Audrey Kovacs ? Docent ? Chair, Reading Plants Program (right)

The winning recipes are:

Lemon Lime Adobo Pesto
Maria Blumberg

1 c. lemon basil
1 c. lime basil
Zest and juice one lime
Zest and juice 1/2 lemon
1/4 c. pine nuts
5 cloves of garlic coarsely chopped
3 tbs. dried oregano
2 tbs. aged Mahon cheese grated
1 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
salt and pepper to taste


Put all the ingredients, except 1/2 cup of
olive oil, in a food processor or blender. Blend or process. As the mixture begins to puree, add rest of olive oil. Best done the night before so the flavors can mature.


Pesto Of Siam
Audrey Kovacs

2 c. purple basil
1/2 c. lemon basil
1/2 c. cilantro
1 large garlic clove
1 c. salted roasted peanuts
4 tbsp. Sesame oil
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 tsp. White pepper
1 tsp. Kosher salt
2 tbsp. Lemon Grass
1 ea, Thai Chili, thinly sliced
Zest and Juice of 1/2 lime

Place all ingredients into food processor and pulse until desired consistency. Let stand at least one hour for flavors to develop. Serve with fried wonton wrappers.

Katura Reynolds, Botanical Staff Educator, came in second. Peggy Lieb, Full Garden, Herb, and Camellia Gardens Docent; John Trager, Curator of Succulent Collections; and Mel Vargas, Herb Garden Docent, tied for third. Other entrants who made delicious pestos were: Beverly Lepak, Sara McPherson, and Carla Phillips.

John Trager
Mel Vargas and friends
Katura Reynolds

Each of the six winners were presented with lovely fresh herb wreaths. My favorite was a beautiful large purple heart made from dark purple basil, cleverly wrapped with a brilliant red satin ribbon. Its recipient, John Trager, was so pleased he wore it around his neck and showed it off all afternoon.

How is that for culinary achievement! A good time was tastily had by all. Stay tuned for the 15th edition next fall.

Dick Malott, Full Garden and Reading Plants Docent; Plant Sales Propagator and Plant Sales Volunteer


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