Last weekend, Cameron, Charlotte, and I drove into Colorado’s High Country for a day hike at Mt. Elbert. Along the drive and hike we admired the many quaking aspen groves. Eying the swaths of gold painted against the limestone cliffs and evergreen forests, Cameron schooled me on the aspen’s biology. He may be trained as a high school English teacher, but my husband’s a veritable encyclopedia on all things Colorado. I quickly learned that aspens are far from a typical tree species.
As clonal colonies, each aspen grove I saw actually originates from one seed, spreading across the land through a root sucker system. This deep root system allows aspens to survive the otherwise devastating summer wild fires that so often rage through the state’s arid forests.
During the hike up Mt. Elbert, I marveled at the aspen’s persistence as a species, but I was equally impressed that something so persistent could also be so gorgeous. Every flash of yellow along the hike was a reminder of unbelievable beauty and light amid autumn’s shortened days.
Below you’ll find an easy recipe for pesto. Cameron and I have been using our homemade pesto as a sauce for butternut squash ravioli. Grab as much basil as possible from your garden before the first frost puts it to bed for the winter. If you’re afraid of fresh pesto’s shelf life, know that you can make a vat of this green ambrosia and stow it in your freezer for those mid-January nights when you need a taste of summer.
“Summer in a Bottle” Basil Pesto (Adapted from The Newlywed Cookbook)
Makes 1 1/2 cups
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 cups fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for topping
Sea salt (or regular salt)
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Pulse together the nuts, garlic, basil, and about half of the cheese in a food processor until the greens are finely chopped. (I don’t have a food processor yet, so I used my immersion blender, and it worked great.)
2. Pulse in the olive oil to make a smooth paste and continue until the pesto is evenly combined. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Taste the paste. If you’re like me, you’ll add the rest of the cheese and a dash more pepper.
4. Try not to eat all of the pesto before you use it as a sauce or topping.