Easy Fresh Pesto Recipe

Only a few weeks after beginning my garden I’m able to reap the benefits. Last night I was hungry for a fresh, light dinner, and there wasn’t much in the fridge.  Too tired to even call for takeout, I decided to see what was on hand in my pantry – I had the usual stuff – a box of linguine, some olive oil, half a head of garlic – no butter, the veggie drawer was empty, and I wasn’t hungry for a bowl of cereal.

I dug around the cheese drawer in the fridge and came up with a stump of Parmigiano Reggiano, and found some pine nuts in a bag at the back of the freezer.  Once I saw the nuts, I knew I had dinner.

Start to finish it took 17 minutes to make one of the freshest dinnersI’ve ever had in my new house.  17 Minutes is the amount of time it takes to boil the water and cook 1 pound of pasta – by the way.


4 cups fresh basil – washed and loosely measured

1-2 cloves garlic – peeled

1/4 c Olive Oil (EVOO)

1-2 handfuls pinenuts (untoasted)

parmesan to taste

1 box of pasta


Put a big pot of water on to boil – do this first, because it takes the longest to boil the water for the pasta.  Add a big pinch of salt so the water tastes like the sea for extra flavor.

I headed out to my garden and grabbed a bunch of leaves of basil right off the plants.  I planted 6 and all survived this texas heat (in fact they are doing quite well), so I took a bit of of each one.  No scissors, or shears, I just plucked off the leaves with my fingers.  When I got back inside, I used my OXO Salad Spinner to clean all the dirt off the leaves.

In a blender or food processor (or mortise and pestle)  grind up the garlic until it’s small bits – but not liquified.  Then add the pine nuts and pulse chop until they are small bits, too (but not dust).  Add in the Basil (be sure you wash it in lots of cold water), and process until you get a beautiful fresh green color.  don’t over do it.

Then add some olive oil until the pesto mixture becomes just loose enough to slide off a spoon.  If you add Too much EVOO  you can add more pine nuts and basil.

Open the lid of the blender and take a big sniff.  Smell that fresh basil and garlic. Yum!  Take the pesto out of the blender, and put into a bowl.  Mix in some freshly grated parmesan – I like to add a bit more to the pesto instead of sprinkling it on top of the pasta.

Now your pot of water should be boiling, so add in the pasta and cook until it sticks to  the wall when you toss it.  Someday I’ll describe my pasta testing method in more detail – I have a special pasta wall that I throw strands against just to see if they stick, but I digress.  This is a pesto class.

Drain the noodles, and then toss with the pesto mixture you just made.

Don’t eat it so fast that you choke.  Be sure to chew a little.

How to repair a broken sprinkler valve

“Binks, you need to mow the lawn.”  

I’ve been hearing this for the past few days now, but have been putting it off because I’m in the heat of the austin wedding season and people want their proofs, prints, and albums.  It’s not like we have the worst yard in the neighborhood, but Sam had his yard mowed 3 days ago, and now we have that weird lawn line between our two properties.  His is short, and mine is long.  Kind of like hair from the 70’s – some had it short, and others had it long. 

As I’m pushing the mower across the front yard, I hear the whirring of the gears and feel the little bits of cut grass flying up against my lets.  Working from the back to the front and side to side, I get a good sweat going in the early summer evening, pushing the old-school reel mower.  But then I notice that I’m hearing the distinctive reel mower sound, but not feeling any grass.  I look down, and see that the front section is still green, but not nearly as long as the back section.  The dirt under the lawn is dry and hard, too.  This section isn’t getting watered by my lawn sprinkler system .  Crap.  As much as I hope this is a simple sprinkler timer issue I know this is going to end up with me, a shovel, and a big muddy hole in the ground.  

There’s not much use in me cutting grass that doesn’t need to be mowed,right?  So, I put the push mower away, and head over to my RainBird timer box.  Start with the easiest thing to check.  It’s plugged in (sometimes the thing falls out of the wall), and the 5 zones are set  for 10 minutes every Sunday and Thursday  at 5:00 in the AM – just like the guidelines for watering your lawn in Austin suggest.  I manually override the system by turning the big green wheel from auto to zone 1, and immediately the sprinklers pop up at the side of the house.  Turning the dial a bit more, I shut off Zone 1 and move through Zones 2, 3, and 4.  All OK. When I get to Zone 5, the one that controls the front of the front yard and the street strip, nothing happens.  I leave it on, and head out to the part of the yard that has the underground valve box.

I had just been working in this part of the yard, clearing old leaves, and tilling the soil, so I feared the worst.  Perhaps I hit a pipe with my shovel as I was digging.  The ground looks OK – there isn’t a large wet spot, or water bubbling up, so I might be out of the woods.  At the Valve box, I hear a strange sound – a sort of electronic water noise (nothing like Bryan Eno’s stuff), but none of the little black sprinklers are popping up.  What I’m thinking is the sprinkler solenoid is broken.

So I dig all around it, and take a look.  I knew this was going to result in digging!  Crouching down to take a look I see a 205PR automatic sprinkler valve, with a red and white wire, and some 1″ PVC pipe.  It’s dry, so I know there is no leak at the valve, and then I hear a click and silence.  The timer automatically turned off the valve, so now I also know the solenoid is working.

From previous experience (not with automatic sprinklers), I’ve learned it’s generally easier to replace the entire thing than to take it apart and try to fix it in place.  Stuff just isn’t made the way it used to be, you know.  So I bust out my hacksaw, and carefully choose where I’m going to cut the PVC.  But before I do, I head back to my timer box, and turn off the main water supply to the system.  

Like a hot knife through butter, I saw the pipe downstream from the valve.  A bit of residual water drains out of the pipe – no big deal.  I cut the two wires, and unscrew the entire valve and remove it from the ground.  Time for a trip to the BOBS – (Big Orange Box Store), otherwise known as Home Depot.

It’s 7:34 on a Wednesday night – so it’s not too crowded – 18 minutes later I have a bag of fittings, purple glue, wires, and valves – and my wallet is lightened by $60 (a cheap trip by all measures).

The next morning, it only takes 20 more minutes to finish the job.  I screw on the new valve, and attach the wires inside a special wax seal that allows them to be burried.  Turning the water back on slowly, so the air pressure doesn’t build up and blow a seal, I start the system.  Each sprinkler pops up and does it’s job.  There are no leaks around the PVC pipe or valve, so I bury the sucker.  

How do I know this stuff?  I have no Idea!

After going hot and heavy for the first 6 weeks…

and tearing out the cottage cheese ceiling, ripping up old 1970’s carpet and padding, pulling down old wallpaper, painting every flat and curved surface, laying new brazillian cherry floors and remodeling the master bath in 30 days I was burnt out. All while the spring Austin Wedding season was in full swing.

The move out of our apartment seemed to take forever – I was unprepared for the amount of stuff that I had amassed, and completely unready for the quantity my wife possesses. While living in a shopping mall usually was a big pain in the rear, there were a few perks, and the biggest was finding really cool designer stuff at a great discount. Since the economy was tanking, it was possible to get some great current season fashions at 50% markdowns (and more). All this had to be boxed up, trucked to our new diggs, unloaded, and then unpacked.

I’ve got to say that we used a local company with a national connection – All My Sons did a great job – Moving in Austin is never easy because it gets so hot and humid.  That we were moving out of the Domain was also not an easy task.  You see, Moving vans can’t park anywhere near the shopping mall, so the distance the movers have to carry stuff is like 6x longer than usual.  Compound that with only one working elevator, and the chances for breaking stuff increases 36 times.  But the three guys that showed up did a fantastic job, and never complained at all about all the moving roadblocks (I know I would have).

Once the truck of stuff was inside our new home, we still had tons to do.  But before unpacking, everything had to be cleaned, and re-cleaned, and then dusted, and mopped, and wiped, and polished. Before we moved in, a nice gentleman had lived here for 6 months, and not lifted a finger to clean a thing. It appeared as though he would fry his steaks on the open flame of the gas stove, and although he would wipe down the enamel on the range, the cabinets, and ceiling were covered with meat juice. Strangely, the same grease was also found on light-switches, doorknobs, and even faucets. Break out the Simple Green and Formula 409!

So finally, we had a semi clean house, and everything was unpacked.  All within six weeks.  That was 2 months ago, and the only thing I’ve been doing is swiffering the floors, mowing the lawn and planting a few simple annuals.  But now, there is an inkling to tackle some more projects – does anyone have a 3.5 HP rototiller?