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Quick Hit: More Pesto Variations

Yes, by now we’re aware that pesto is a great way to use up bushels and bushels of basil – but what if your wallet balks at the price of pine nuts to go along with all that basil? And what if you’re also out of basil, having no garden of your own to be overrun with it? Well, there are other green leafy alternatives, as well as other nuts (actual nuts too). Experiment with what you have.

For example, try cress and cashews, plus walnut oil, garlic, and some chives (optional). Leave the cheese out until you plan to use the pesto (so you can freeze it if you want to), and try Pecorino instead of Parmesan. Great on pasta, or as a potato salad dressing or with peas, or on baguette or…

Or if you don’t have cress, try arugula instead. Maybe with walnuts instead of cashews. Really, the variations go on.

Quick Spring Lunch: Fusilli with Scallions, Peas, and Goat Cheese

Actually, the title says it all. This makes a quick lunch, especially if you have the pasta already cooked. This is barely a recipe, and I didn’t really measure anything, so use your judgment as to the ratio of pasta to scallions, peas, and cheese.

What’s in it:

  • 8 – 12 oz pasta (fusilli), cooked (how much really depends on how hungry you are)
  • 2 – 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 cup peas (cooked along with the pasta)
  • chopped chives – about 1 Tbs (optional)
  • fresh goat cheese (at least 1/4 cup, more if you love goat cheese)

Brown scallions in butter and olive oil over medium high, let things get a bit crispy. Add in the cooked fusilli and peas. Stir. If you have them, add some fresh chives too. Serve in a deep plate (pasta bowl), topped with crumbles of fresh goat cheese. Toss a bit so the cheese can meld with the warm pasta. Bask in the Spring feeling (though you could make this dish all through summer and fall, it feels spring-like, and scallions are great in spring).

Classic Broccolini Pasta

This is makes a good dish for the transition from winter to spring.

What you need: a bunch of broccolini (or a stalk or two of broccoli), one or two garlic cloves, some olive and walnut oil, a bit of dry vermouth or white wine (or water), red pepper flakes, and spaghetti.

Cut the thicker stems of the broccolini into small pieces and boil them along with the pasta. Chop the rest of the broccolini into bite-size pieces. While the pasta cooks, saute the broccolini pieces in about 1 -2 Tbs of olive and/or walnut oil over medium heat.

After 5 minutes or so, add minced garlic, then add a good splash of vermouth, cover the pan and turn the heat down a bit; let things steam. Add red pepper flakes towards the end of cooking, along with a pat of butter to finish (optional). Also optional: adding some chopped walnut or almonds.

Finally, add the drained pasta and stems to the pan, along with a splash of pasta water, stir to combine evenly. Salt and pepper to taste; serve with Pecorino or Spanish cheese or Parmesan.

Spring Fling: Cavatappi with Green Asparagus

After many months of winter squash, stored potatoes, and nothing green except kale and cabbage, I’m always particularly excited when the first spring produce appears at my farmer’s market (radishes! asparagus! scallions!). Since these portents of the new growing season also stick around into June, I don’t feel too bad for letting this entry sit around since early May. So even though it’s now almost summer, and we have the mugginess to prove it, here is a quick dinner to help you celebrate that first tender green asparagus. I’ve been making variations of this for a few weeks now.

Note: Cavatappi are a sort of corkscrew-looking pasta that look a bit like someone took a penne noodle, stretched and then twisted it. They hold all sorts of sauces well, and small lengths of asparagus can snuggle into their twists.

What’s involved: Continue reading

Quick Hit: Dip into Dressing a Cool Spring Dish

If you’ve ever found yourself with leftover pot luck contributions, like say, some goat cheese yogurt dip, you might consider this a useful idea: Take said dip and turn it into a dressing for your cool Spring salad in just one handy step (not counting prepping the veggies). Continue reading

Quick Hit: Orecchiette Olio

Olio: a happy mix of various items. In this case, sort of like a pasta potpourri, a miscellaneous medley of delicious items, combined into a harmonious whole. This one also works as a cold salad the next day for lunch.

  1. Cook the orecchiette pasta according to package directions. The small “ears” indentations work well to hold the peas, etc. but other small shapes like farfalle or elbows would also work here. I used about a cup (dry pasta, maybe 4 oz), but adjust as needed to feed more people.
  2. You can cook the peas right along with the pasta. About a 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup should do well. If they’re fresh, wait to add them to the water until the pasta is nearly cooked. The frozen peas could join immediately or go in for the last 5 minutes or so. I’m still experimenting with that, so do whatever works best for you.
  3. While the pasta cooks, chop 2 -3 scallions (depending on size and how much you like them).
  4. Before draining the cooked pasta, reserve some of the pasta water for later.
  5. Toss the hot orecchiette and peas with the chopped scallions, about 15 oz of chickpeas, either canned (rinse those well first) or cooked from dried chickpeas (if you can plan ahead and have these on hand) and some crumbled feta cheese, about 1/4 cup. Add a bit of the reserved pasta water (start with 1 Tbs) to make a bit of a sauce. Add more if things seem too dry.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm, or let cool to room temperature or serve slightly cold the next day.


Pasta, Shell Peas, Mint and Scallions

It’s about time for all the fresh green produce to come into its own and take center stage. If your CSA or farmer’s market has landed you with some shell peas, you may now be appreciating the convenience of frozen peas. Shell peas, unlike sugar snap or snow peas, have to be shelled. For this recipe, shell the peas while watching John Carpenter’s The Thing (for example).

And yes, you can use frozen peas for this. No shelling. Continue reading

Couscous with Zucchini, Basil and Peas

You can enhance a simple dish like couscous and vegetables by deepening the flavors of the main ingredients. For example, cook your couscous in chicken broth instead of water, or at least in water plus a bouillon cube. And if you are making something involving sautéed zucchini, you should also be reaching for the anchovy jar. Like so: Continue reading

Decadent Spring Pasta

One good way to use up the last of your pancetta (antibiotic-free, organic, humanely-raised) and also celebrate the asparagus bounty that is spring is to improvise on pasta cabonara – in this case sans eggs.

You’ll need: about half a box of linguine fini; 2 strips pancetta, a bunch of thin asparagus (green), a splash of sherry, Parmesan, some heavy cream (optional), pepper, and maybe some red pepper flakes. Continue reading