[Dinner, June 2012.]
Last night the fog floated in – perhaps not quite on little cat feet, but close enough – and it is still here this morning, blanketing my part of the city with grey. The sun is struggling to break through though I encouraged it with all my might as I sipped my tea this morning, I think it’s settled in for the long haul. We’ve been spoiled lately but as I am never satisfied I am greedy for more sun, more warm afternoons, more clear skies. Then again, the chillier days temper the nicer ones and serve to help us appreciate them more (err, something like that).
Earlier this week there were some rather lovely, summery days, and I decided to treat them – and us – to a bit of pesto. Pesto to me is the essence of summer, and I make it as often as I can when basil is in season. I’d grabbed a few handfuls of early basil at the farmers market, and as soon as I saw the (also) early cherry tomatoes a few stands down I knew immediately what I must do: make a basil pesto and then toss it with whole wheat pasta and roasted cherry tomatoes.
I find I plan out most of my weekly meals at the farmers’ market as I’m perusing what’s available. This can lead to a certain amount of dreaminess and also teasing; as my hand hovered over a flat of purple onions last weekend my mind was consumed with stir-fry Tuesday with quinoa – no, brown rice and tofu, Wednesday sauteed kale with polenta and white beans, Thursday out and was soundly teased. That’s OK. I’ll take the distractedness and the gentle ribbing if it results in my not having to decide each afternoon what I’ll be cooking that evening. I have a whole post I want to write about re that and how we eat/plan/cook but the main thing today is this pesto dish.
As our vegan month draws to a close (and yes, that was me you saw yesterday happily consuming a cheddar CHEESE and avocado sandwich; I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination that’s for sure), I’m both surprised at how quickly it went by while also wishing for ice cream. (I had a dream about ice cream last night, specifically three scoops of vanilla piled in a tall glass and topped with hot fudge, caramel sauce, and walnuts … so I guess I am ready to eat ice cream again. And cheese: despite a few cheese sandwiches here and there I have really not eaten much cheese since the end of May – a huge feat for me.)
But for the most part I’ve enjoyed the mental and creative challenge cooking veganly has offered me (perhaps that was the point?). I feel a little lighter overall, and I’m addicted again to Wildwood soy creamer and may stick with that awhile longer. I realized how much cheese I consume on a regular basis and while cheese is good and mostly good for you, it also contains a good amount of fat and it might behoove me to cut down a bit. I also realized that it’s easy to be vegan when you live in a city like San Francisco (and California in general) and how I probably will go on cooking a lot of vegan meals at home in the interest of both health and economy. The taste factor I need hardly mention because there are so many delicious vegan things to eat you don’t feel like you’re missing out. Honest.
Case in point, this vegan pesto pasta dish.
I used my basic vegan pesto recipe here with a few extra cloves of garlic to give it even more kick and reserving a little fresh basil to add in to the finished dish. While the tomatoes were roasting I boiled water for pasta, adding a few handfuls of frozen peas when the noodles were nearly done, and toasted some pine nuts. When the tomatoes were ready I slicked the pasta with the pesto (plus a tablespoon or two of vegan margarine), added in the tomatoes, pine nuts, peas, and fresh basil. It was light. It was fresh. It was hearty enough to fill us up so we hardly wanted dessert. It was easy. And it was summer in a bowl.
So regardless of the weather as I eat my leftovers for lunch I’m trying to content myself with the reality that at least it tastes like summer, elusive as that season may be in San Francisco. G-d bless farmers who grown their tomatoes and basil (and summer squash, and beets, and and and) in the nearby valleys and bring them to us city-folk marooned in the fog bank. Still, I suppose this funny summer effect is simply part of the charm of this city by the bay, and so I cannot complain too much. (But I will have seconds.)
Pesto with Roasted Tomatoes, Pine Nuts, and Peas
I served this with a quickly sauteed purple onion and a bunch of wilted chard, plus a vegan Tofurkey sausage.
Makes 4+ servings
1/2 pound (or more) cherry or grape tomatoes
1 pound whole wheat pasta – I used shells
2 cups frozen peas
**optional** vegan margarine or olive oil (about two tablespoons)
1 batch vegan pesto
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
handful torn fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 300 F. Dump the tomatoes into a large, shallow baking dish and place in the oven. Roast for about 30-40 minutes, until tomatoes are getting a little puckery and soft.
With about 10 minutes to go on the tomatoes, boil the water for the pasta. Add the pasta and cook according to the package’s instructions. With about 3 minutes left on the pasta, add the peas and cook until both pasta and peas are al dente. Drain.
In a large bowl, toss the pasta and peas with the margarine or oil if using; stir until margarine is melted and coating the pasta. Then stir in the pesto, trying to distribute it evenly. Add the tomatoes, pine nuts, and basil and toss well. (Generous) Salt and pepper to taste.