Last week, my friend Jessica asked if I could lead a bulk salsa and pesto-making session at a church in Suitland. Get paid to teach a group of friendly local food lovers and farmers' market supporters to make some of my favorite foods? Yes, ma'am. Call me any time.
I took the metro out early Monday morning to meet up with the group at a church that had agreed to let us use their commercial kitchen. With Maxine at the wheel, we roamed the area to gather our necessary ingredients and equipment. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find fresh cilantro in this urban food desert?? I do believe it took three separate stops to find it. (First world problems, yes.) Then we had a little stop for lunch. (It is me we're talking about here, and by then I'd gone more than three hours without a snack. Thanks for treating me to lunch, Antoinette!) We made our way back to the Hunter Memorial African Methodist Episcopal Church and for the better part of the afternoon, the four of us washed, chopped, stirred, and blended many quarts of fresh tomato salsa and kale-sunflower-seed pesto for taste testing at the Suitland Farmers' Market.
There may have been a little taste testing during our session, but that was purely for quality control.
Interestingly, the salsa was not nearly as spicy as I'd remembered it being when I made it with middle schoolers awhile back. No matter how many jalapeno peppers we added, the "hot" salsa never got very hot. Maybe it's because we used grocery store peppers instead of farmers' market ones. I wonder. In any case, it was still very fresh tasting and delicious with the onion and (much sought after) cilantro. Our market shoppers who tasted it the next day seemed to like it just fine scooped up with whole wheat tortilla chips, so we may give this another go sometime soon.
The sunflower seed-based pesto was not as good as Jessica's original version using peanuts, but with peanut allergies abounding these days, I opted for tasteability over taste-superiority. It wasn't bad, but we can do better. And I very much look forward to that research....
It was a lot of fun all around, but my favorite part of the afternoon was hearing from one of my young assistant chefs how excited she was to learn to make pesto from scratch, how she loved tasting and adjusting the recipe each time -- a squeeze of lemon juice here, a little more garlic there, maybe a pinch of salt -- and how she just couldn't wait to go home and make a batch with her young daughter.
Ah. This is why I do what I do.