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Archive for July, 2011

Here we are in the dog days of summer.  Luckily I escaped the sweltering city just in the nick of time—right before the most recent heat wave, I was off to Maine for a week with my Dad.  It had been in the works for a while and we couldn’t have been happier that the trip coincided with such disgusting weather in the Northeast.  Instead of the stifling subway and oven-hot asphalt, I got to enjoy this:

I couldn’t fill my lungs with enough sea breeze.  From our sailboat, from the shore, from the dock, I repeatedly breathed deeply and mindfully, longing to save the clean, cool air for when I would need it most, perhaps while waiting underground  for a train during my morning commute where the air is stagnant and thick.  My Dad and I relaxed on the deck situated right over the water and enjoyed simple home cooked meals—penne with summer squash and tomatoes, veggie burgers with caramelized onions and peppers, western omelettes with fresh fruit, and fluffy pancakes (my Dad’s specialty).

Now before I boast too much about the pleasures of a coastal Maine summer vacation, I ought to let you in on the pains of moving that I’ve recently gone through–during July 4th weekend, my roommate and our families spent humid, sweaty days packing and unpacking an enormous moving truck and lugging things up and down stairs.  Preceding that whole experience, she and I had spent some stressful evenings apartment hunting after work, agonizing over all the variables involved–rent, commute, size, broker’s fee, closet space, etc.  I truly needed my vacation as well as a vacation from writing my posts here.  I needed not only to relax my body but also to relax my mind, to allow it to rest from it’s constant planning and plotting and problem-solving.  I needed to pour out my brain and unclench my mind—I’d been so tightly wound the past few months, it felt so incredibly lovely to let everything go.

So Danielle and I said goodbye to Rochambeau Ave, where we had lived and laughed and grown during the past three years, and said hello to Myrtle Ave and a whole new borough.  Brooklyn.  It’s quite strange to say that I live in Brooklyn after living for so long in a borough that raises eyebrows and many believe to be the ugly stepchild of New York.  But it is done and we are happy and have no regrets.  And of course a new apartment means a new kitchen.  Danielle and I were both concerned about finding a nice kitchen in our new place.  Something with counter and cabinet space—both are a rare commodity in apartments on the cheaper end of the spectrum in this city.  But we managed to do it and are both enjoying cooking there.
So far, I’ve made quite a few recipes.  Of course my favorite whole grain pancakes (this time I had beautifully fresh raspberries to use)

and veggie stuffed summer squash

and arugula pesto with penne.

The arugula pesto is quite delicious and is the second pesto I’ve made this summer that is not a pesto in which basil plays the starring role.  Isn’t it interesting when we Americans hear the word pesto, we automatically think of basil?  But it comes the Italian word for to crush, to pound, so essentially pesto is more about the technique to make it and less about the ingredients.  I made pea pesto about a month ago—it was for the last community dinner we hosted at Rochambeau—and it was just gorgeous.

So now the arugula pesto.  It would really be lovely if you used some straight from your garden, but, finding myself without one this summer, I’ve had to settle with some from the farmers market or the store in a pinch.  Really now all it takes is a few simple ingredients—and isn’t that what you want on a day when your walk from the subway to your apartment leaves you a dripping mess?!  Ok, can you remember this—arugula, olive oil, chopped garlic, toasted nuts (pine nuts or walnuts or almonds or experiment more), parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, basil, oregano.  Essentially, you put the arugula and a bit of the olive oil in a food processor or blender, process until it starts to get chopped up, add the garlic, blend some more, add the nuts a bit at a time as you are blending (make sure they are already toasted!), add the rest of the oil, add some of the cheese, be sure to scrape down the sides of the processor or blender with a rubber spatula as you go to keep it all combined, then you want to add some salt and pepper and the spices to taste and the rest of the cheese.

For people who need exact measurements, here you go:

  • 2 cups of packed arugula leaves, stems removed
  • 1/2 cup of shelled walnuts
  • 1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1/2 garlic clove peeled and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

If you are going to be adding this to pasta, prepare the pasta but make sure to reserve at least 2 cups of pasta water before you drain the pasta.  When you add the pesto it will be thick and difficult to combine completely with the pasta so add a little of the reserved water as you go and heat the pasta over low.  Stir it on up and it all should combine.  Top with some extra toasted nuts, cheese, spices, and fresh tomatoes or other vegetables.

Now this doesn’t have to just go with penne or another kind of pasta.  Serve it with crusty bread and cheese, or instead of sauce on a pizza, or just eat it fresh out of the bowl, I won’t tell anyone (I do it myself when no one is looking)–after all it isn’t summer without pesto!

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